ROME (AP) — The Ocean Viking rescue ship brought 294 migrants rescued over the last 10 days in the central Mediterranean to a port in Sicily on Monday, as the number of migrant arrivals surges by one-third over last year’s levels.

The SOS Mediterranee charity criticized Italy for the long wait for a port, noting that many of those rescued were showing signs of trauma from the perilous journey and were in need of immediate assistance.

“The wait of over a week for a port to disembark these people was senseless,” said Candida Lobes, communications officer on the Ocean Viking.

The migrants were rescued in several operations off the coast of Libya starting on May 19, including 49 children, some as young as 3 years old.

Italy has seen a surge in migrant arrivals in recent weeks with warmer weather. The Interior Ministry said 18,841 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea so far this year, up by 31% over last year.

Authorities are increasingly concerned that a growing food crisis exacerbated by the blockade of grain stores in Ukraine could provoke a fresh migrant crisis out of North Africa.

Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese will host counterparts from five European countries this week in Venice to discuss the migrant situation.

“The problem hits our countries at first, but is a question facing the whole continent,” she added.


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