A furious rumour has swept the humanitarian boat, Ocean Viking on which 356 migrant survivors are found, testifying to the mistreatment they received in Libya
A misunderstanding sowed a panic Wednesday 21st August 2019 aboard the Ocean Viking. A communication error made 356 survivors waiting for a port of landing think that they could be sent back to Libya.
The intensity of the reaction alone testifies to the terror of those who escaped Libyan jails: “We want to send us back to Libya,” almost cried Rice, a young Sudanese usually very calm, wiping his face sweaty hands in the middle of a cacophony of comments in French, English and Arabic.
Press clippings posted by the teams of Médecins sans Frontières and SOS Méditerranée – who manage the humanitarian boat – with the intention of informing the passengers rescued off the Libyan waters of the situation, are at the origin of this panic.
Among the items posted, one of them repeated a statement from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated about ten days suggesting that people collected at sea should be returned “in Libya or Tunisia. ”
“We were in a meeting with MSF to decide what was to be explained to people about their situation when we were warned” of the mistake, told AFP Nicholas Romaniuk, coordinator of rescue operations on board.
Meeting in three languages
The leaders of both organizations and the cultural mediator of MSF immediately intervened to calm the spirits and organize a meeting in three languages.
The mediator, Kira, insisted that there was no question of returning to Libya and Jay Berger, the coordinator of the MSF mission, recalled that with their previous ship, Aquarius, the two organizations had saved nearly 30,000 people, “all brought back to Europe” he insisted.
They also exposed the difficulties experienced by the Spanish Open Arms, which was finally able to land on the Sicilian island Lampedusa Tuesday night and land the dozens of migrants still on board after nineteen days at sea.
Incidents on board
“They were told that there were humanitarian emergencies on board, which made them a priority, but that now they were the priority for whom a solution had to be found,” said Romaniuk.
The 356 people aboard the Ocean Viking were rescued in four operations between the 9th and 12th August off the Libyan waters and wait for the tenth day Wednesday at sea, in the Sicilian Channel, waiting for them to be designated a port of landing in Europe.
Some incidents have occurred, related to promiscuity on board, inactivity, lack of water, hygiene and uncertainty.
Most of those collected while fleeing Libya on life-threatening boats have been subjected to heavy abuse and many are traumatized by torture and ill-treatment, reports the MSF medical team on board.