Desperate migrants stranded on humanitarian boats off the coast of Sicily threw themselves into the sea on Monday.
Three migrants who were rescued by the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières, jumped from Geo Barents but were recovered shortly afterwards.
Shortly after, a dozen other migrants on the deck of the boat chanted “Help us”, according to an AFP journalist.
Italy’s far-right Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, vowed to crack down on small boat arrivals when she was elected in October.
According to the Italian Interior Ministry, more than 88,000 people have arrived by sea in Italy since 1 January.
Several boats have been waiting for days to dock in Sicily, trapped in a standoff with the Italian executive who have been preventing them from entering ports.
Citizens and activists have been gathering at the port of Catania shouting “free them”.
The Geo Barents docked in Catania on Sunday evening and Italian authorities allowed 357 people to disembark, including children, while refusing entry to 215 others – in violation of international law, claim MSF.
Amnesty Italia reinforced this point on Twitter: “the law of the seas is clear: a rescue only finishes when all the rescued people are allowed to disembark in a safe place.
“It’s urgent that the Italian authorities allow people rescued from the sea to disembark in Catania.”
One of the migrants was later evacuated by ambulance after complaining of severe abdominal pain, MSF said on Monday, stressing that the others were increasingly vulnerable.
Not far from the port is the German-flagged boat Humanity 1, from which 144 people disembarked on Sunday, leaving 35 adults on board.
An Italian government decree issued on Friday stated that the ship was only allowed to dock in Italy long enough to identify passengers in “an emergency”.