Humanitarian Rescue: More than 400 Migrants on the Ocean Viking and the Open Arms

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Humanitarian rescue: more than 400 migrants on the Ocean Viking

More than 400 people were rescued at sea by the two humanitarian ships but remain stuck at sea, for lack of a welcome solution in sight.

More than 400 migrants are accommodated on the humanitarian ships Open Arms and Ocean Viking after a third rescue, near Libya, made by the latter boat. But no solution is in sight for their reception.

Even if the optimum reception capacity – about 200 passengers – are exceeded for tired people, the coordinator of search and rescue operations of the NGO SOS Mediterranean, Nicholas Romaniuk, decided to continue to patrol an area located in 60 nautical miles (about 110 km) from Tripoli to potentially rescue other boats.

“We are the only ones in the area, the Libyan coastguards do not respond,” he told an AFP journalist aboard the Ocean Viking, also arguing favorable weather conditions that may prompt at departure.

In addition, the celebration of one of the main festivals of the Muslim calendar, Eid-el-Kebir, probably eases the surveillance on the beaches of Libya.


Three rescues in three days

The Ocean Viking, humanitarian organizations SOS Mediterranean and MSF (Doctors Without Borders) , conducted its third rescue in three days on Sunday, August 11, 2019.

“We have a 24-hour watch and two radars covering the area. This morning it was the presence of a low-level reconnaissance aircraft that alerted us and drove us further north, “says Nich.

Onboard a blue rubber boat six to seven meters long were packed 81 young men who cheered the sailor’s rescuers seeing them approaching, taking selfies with their phone, unaware of the dangers involved. Some carried black rubber buoys around the neck, absolutely ineffective, according to the rescuers.

Mostly Sudanese, aged three-quarters (81%) 18 to 34 years, they said they left the Libyan coast Saturday night.

“These boats are hand-made by the smugglers who assemble some pieces of rubber between them. No one would ever get the certification to carry passengers, “says Nicholas.

Most survivors of the Ocean Viking are Sudanese (two-thirds), although the first boat rescued Friday also carried Senegalese and Ivorians, went to work in Libya and caught up in the war.

Bintu (g) ​​and his son aboard Ocean Viking on August 10, 2019.
Bintu (g) ​​and his son aboard Ocean Viking on August 10, 2019. (© AFP / Anne CHAON)

Injuries of torture

According to MSF doctor Luca, “rescued people suffer from dehydration and a lot of scabies”. He also “noted many injuries inherited from torture”.

The American actor Richard Gere evoked this abuse on Saturday in a press conference in Lampedusa, with the leaders of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms, whose humanitarian ship is treading water near this island in southern Italy, with 160 migrants on board, 121 of whom are “at the breaking point” after 10 days at sea.

“Most talk about it as migrants but for me they are refugees on the run. Extraordinary people, “explained the Hollywood star. “They are so strong, they have lived horrors, hell, torture, rape, imprisonment.” We must stop “dehumanization” and “stop demonizing human beings”.

On Sunday, the founder of the Open Arms, Oscar Camps, launched a new call for European solidarity:

“Tenth day on board, on a hot Sunday of August. We resist, we have 160 reasons to do it. 160 human beings who have the right to disembark in a safe harbor. Shame on you Europe “.

Nine migrants from the Open Arms were able to disembark Sunday night: eight were taken by helicopter to Malta and one to Lampedusa. They were evacuated for suspicion of tuberculosis, pneumonia and because a 32-year-old woman has brain cancer.

“Better to have fines than to be accomplices,” Oscar Camps added, referring to the rules in force in Spain and Italy where the ship faces confiscation and fines of around one million euros.

In the meantime, some 30 migrants landed directly on the Italian coast on Sunday: 16 Iranians and Iraqis intercepted on a sailboat that arrived in Puglia (south) and 13 North Africans on a fishing boat that landed on the Sicilian island of Marettimo.

Read also: Migrants: Malta refuses refuelling Ocean Viking humanitarian boat

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