Ocean Viking: France Ready to Welcome Migrants but Not the Ship

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Ocean Viking: France ready to welcome migrants but not the ship

The last humanitarian ship, Ocean Viking in the Mediterranean is still waiting in the Sicilian channel for a port where the 356 survivors on board, some of them for 12 days, can land.

France is ” ready ” to welcome “a significant number of migrants” present aboard the Ocean Viking, but maintains its refusal to receive the ship because it must be hosted in “the nearest port, said Wednesday 21st August 2019 the Elysee.

The situation is “worrying” for the Ocean Viking, in which there are 356 survivors since they were rescued in the Mediterranean, said the presidency.

“We must find him a place of disembarkation, logically Malta or Italy, ” according to the Elysee. And “to ensure that the distribution of migrants is shared among as many countries” of the European Union.

France “is ready to welcome a large number of migrants,” added the presidency without giving a figure. “Five countries, including France and Germany, systematically participate” in the reception of migrants, but “this club should be expanded”, what the EU is trying to do, she said.

“France is the country that has welcomed the most” since mid-2018 and the one that is “the fastest in their care,” says the Elysee, highlighting the agreement to receive a “number” of migrants collected by the ship Open Arms.

356 survivors stranded for 12 days

The 356 people aboard the Ocean Viking were rescued by the NGOs SOS Mediterranean and Médecins Sans Frontières in four operations between 9 and 12 August off the Libyan waters and wait for the tenth day Wednesday at sea, in the canal of Sicily, waiting for them to be designated a port of landing in Europe.

“We can not question the principle of reception in the nearest safe harbour because it is a legal principle,” says Paris. “We must hold on to it” because a questioning would further complicate the situation.

The EU must, therefore “continue to put pressure on Italy”, whose interior minister Matteo Salvini refuses to let down migrants, says it to the Elysee. But “it’s going to be very complicated” because of the political situation in the peninsula.

Malt is in “a very difficult situation” because its “capacity of the reception is saturated”, underlines the presidency.

Aboard the Ocean Viking that idles in the Sicilian Canal while waiting for a port to land the 356 survivors, collected in the Mediterranean, who are on board, August 20, 2019
Aboard the Ocean Viking that idles in the Sicilian Canal while waiting for a port to land the 356 survivors, collected in the Mediterranean, who are on board, August 20, 2019. (© AFP / Anne CHAON)

The hope aroused by the Open Arms

No response has been made to the repeated requests of the crew, said Wednesday to AFP Frederic Penard, the director of operations of the NGO SOS Mediterranean who manages the boat with Médecins Sans Frontières.

The Ocean Viking, flying the Norwegian flag, is for the tenth day, practically stopped, in the Sicilian Channel between Malta and the small Sicilian island of Lampedusa. Forbidden by Malta at the last moment to refuel, go, water and fuel, he is forced to save these resources.

Faced with young people marked by the hardships already endured, the teams have been careful, these last days, to recount the adventures that led several times survivors of the Spanish humanitarian ship Open Arms to jump into the water to try to swim to Lampedusa.

“As provided by maritime law, we requested from the first aid, on August 9, the rescue coordination centers at sea in Italy and Malta the designation of a safe harbor to disembark the rescued persons. For the moment, we have had no response from Italy and a rather negative response from Malta, “said Mr Penard.

None of the rescued people, most of them young people, could follow the bursts of Italian political life or the accounting meanders of European decisions. But the news of the berthing of the Open Arms in Lampedusa, after a 19-day wait and strong tensions on board, began to spread on the deck of the Ocean Viking.

“May God hear us” rejoiced Hanil, a 22-year-old Sudanese from Kordofan (south), who is accompanied by his younger brother Adam, after a long journey that began five years ago in Egypt and then in Libya, via Khartoum.

Disappeared without a trace

The overwhelming majority of those rescued off Libya fled repeated violence and human rights violations in that country, where most of them had gone to work.

The sea is their only exit, they found themselves on craft boats and the number of those who died will remain forever unknown.

Sam Turner, the head of MSF’s mission in Libya, told AFP on Wednesday that “not only do these people continue to suffer from prolonged stay at sea, but others will continue to die because we are prevented from continuing our relief operations. ”

Sam Turner recalls that, according to the estimates of the Libyan coastguard, “about half of the boats that start are lost at sea, hundreds of people who disappear without a trace”.

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