First for 2021: Migrant Taxi NGO Authorised to Drop off over 250 Migrants in Italy

A patrol boat (R) of the Italian Coast Guards (Guardia Costiera) sails past the rescue vessel of Spanish NGO Open Arms (L) on September 17, 2020 off the port of Palermo, Sicily, after another patrol boat of the Guardia Costiera rescued a group of 76 migrants who threw themselves into …

The Spanish Open Arms vessel has been granted permission to drop off 265 illegals at an Italian port after picking them up off the Libyan coast, the first migrant transport NGO landing in Italy of 2021.

The NGO ship picked up the migrants during the first hours of the new year and initially made its way to Malta but was denied port access by the Maltese government.

On Sunday, the NGO confirmed that Italy had granted it port access and that it would be landing the 265 individuals at the Sicilian port town of Porto Empedocle, Italian newspaper Il Giornale reports.

“It will be a difficult night on deck. The weather has deteriorated. It is raining and cold. After Malta’s refusal, Italy assigned Porto Empedocle as a port of landing. We are happy for the people on board. A thought goes out to those who will face the storm tonight on a drifting boat,” the NGO wrote on Sunday.

The migrants on board are expected to be transferred to the Rhapsody, a ship used by the Italian government to quarantine newly arrived illegal migrants in case they may be positive for the Chinese coronavirus.

Once the quarantine period is over, the migrants are usually transferred to reception centres on the Italian mainland.

The Open Arms landing is the first NGO arrival of 2021 and comes after 2020 saw a surge of incursions on Sicily and the island of Lampedusa both through migrant transport NGOs and illegals arriving aboard their own vessels.

While many migrants who arrive illegally in Italy are quarantined for coronavirus, a report from September stated that the country had run out of space due to the number of new arrivals.

Riots have also taken place in centres where migrants have been quarantined, as was the case in a hotel in the Sicilian town of Valderice where illegals set fires and tried to escape the hotel.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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