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Bangladeshis among 539 migrants rescued off Italian island

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 30 August, 2021 12:00 AM
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Bangladeshis among 539 migrants rescued off Italian island

Italian coastguards on Saturday rescued at least 539 migrants, including some Bangladeshis, from a fishing boat drifting off the island of Lampedusa as the risky voyage through the Mediterranean continues.

The rescue incident was one of the largest numbers of migrants in a single day in the small Mediterranean island that is closer to Tunisia than it is to Italy.

While talking to two international news agencies, a doctor from the humanitarian group MSF (Doctors Without Borders), Alida Serrachieri, said a number of the migrants appeared to have been physically assaulted in Libya.

She said she didn’t know how long the boat had been at sea, but she said the migrants had spent weeks or even months in Libya awaiting passage in traffickers’ boats in hopes of reaching Italian soil.

“They had burn wounds, firearms wounds,” Dr Serrachieri said, adding that they were very worn down, some were dehydrated.

Many of the migrants were from countries in North Africa and West Africa, and some were from Bangladesh, she said.

Italian prosecutors have opened an inquiry into what may have happened to some of the migrants that had travelled from Libya and who reportedly displayed signs of having been tortured.

Investigators are looking at the possibility that the migrants may have been falsely imprisoned in Libya, according to media reports.

Earlier in the week, more than 500 migrants landed in Lampedusa within the space of 24 hours, according to local media.

Lampedusa’s housing complex, where migrants stay while the initial paperwork is done for asylum applications, can hold about 300 people but the new arrivals have increased the number of occupants to about 1,200.

Many more people are held outside the housing complex on the dusty road, said the media reports.

Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost point, is one of the main arrival ports for people wanting to reach Europe.

In May, more than 1,000 migrants landed on the Italian island in the space of a few hours.