The successor of Aquarius, the Ocean Viking, chartered by SOS Mediterranean and Médecins sans Frontières, must rescue migrants off the coast of Europe.
The Maltese authorities refused Wednesday 7th August 2019 full of fuel to the humanitarian ship Ocean Viking of SOS Mediterranean and Médecins sans Frontières, announced on board AFP the head of relief operations to migrants, Nicolas Romaniuk.
“After giving us their agreement for a full offshore, without docking, the Maltese authorities have announced tonight at 8:30 pm (6.30pm GMT), two hours before the time of the appointment, we did not have the authorization to enter Maltese territorial waters, “Romaniuk said.
This is the first time that Malta has closed its territorial area to a humanitarian boat, while Italy has already taken several orders prohibiting its territorial waters to NGO boats.
Successor of Aquarius
No official reason has been given to the command of the boat by the Maltese authorities, he said. “But the shipping agent who takes care of us on site told us by email that we could not refuel because they knew it was the boat of an NGO.
The new boat – the successor of the Aquarius – chartered by the French NGOs SOS Méditerranée and Médecins sans Frontières, left Sunday evening of Marseille (south of France), was Wednesday evening at some eighteen hours of navigation of the zone of relief, but they lost time by confusing itself on Malta.
The relief coordinator estimates that the fuel onboard will allow the boat to sail another 10 to 12 days, shortening the search time at sea.
Weather encourages migrant departures
“We have water, fuel, there are people to help so we continue,” he decided. Favourable weather seems to encourage departures from the Libyan coast and Libyan coastguards have intercepted seven boats in the last 36 hours, he said.
Starting candidates are more than afraid to be sent back to Libya where they suffer all kinds of abuse, violence and exploitation.
The Norwegian-flagged 69-foot Ocean Viking is heading for the central Mediterranean off the coast of Libya to rescue people who are fleeing on makeshift boats.
He was preparing to refuel on the way, in order to carry out the longest possible mission in the search and rescue area (SAR).
“We had considered several options and opted for Malta. We were going to refuel with a refuelling ship, as is common every day. ”
The authorities, according to Mr Romaniuk, “asked for the list of people on board and specified our request. We communicated to Maltese radio our estimated time of arrival, around 10.30pm (8.30pm GMT). Five minutes later they told us that we were not allowed to enter Maltese waters.
The Ocean Viking is conducting its first mission with around thirty people on board, SOS Mediterranean rescue sailors and MSF medical and assistance staff.
Since his departure, the crew and humanitarian staff were preparing to roam along the coast for lack of a reception port for migrants who will be rescued.
The Mediterranean, whose surface is only 1% of the world’s oceans, has become the deadliest shipping route in the world. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 840 people have disappeared since the beginning of the year, including 576 in the central Mediterranean – without counting shipwrecks not listed.