Emergency on rescue vessel as survivors attempt suicide

PHOTO CREDIT: Laurence Bondard/SOS Méditerranée

LAMPEDUSA –  Ocean Viking, the NGO vessel that has been scouring the Mediterranean to save migrants from Libya in distress, has rescued 180 people but has had to declare a state of emergancy as two men jumped overboard and one tried to hang himself, with all those on board suffering from "extreme mental fatigue," according to a SOS Méditerranée press release. Several other survivors have also threatened to jump overboard, with many suffering from sun and fuel burns from the time they spent on the boats in the open sea. One individual had to be evacuated after his medical condition deteriorated.

  On Saturday morning, an Italian doctor and cultural mediator arrived on the Ocean Viking in the international waters off Italy in order to make an assessment.  As well as a pregnant woman on board, there are survivors who have tried to flee Libya several times, but were brought back by the Libyan coastguard and put into brutal detention centres.

  “We are now once again left in limbo without any indication of a port for disembarkation,” said SOS Méditerranée's Director of Operations, Frédéric Penard. The SOS Méditerranée's ship had sent five requests to the Italian and Maltese authorities, but had initially received only two responses, both of which were negative, reports La Repubblica.

  In 2019, Malta signed an agreement for the relocation of people rescued at sea. European Union Member States are aware people have continued to flee Libya on unseaworthy boats throughout the COVID-19 crisis, regardless of the absence of dedicated Search and Rescue vessels in the Central Mediterranean. 

  SOS Méditerranée have stated that the EU is not only failing in this regard, but is failing to provide safety to the few who have been rescued by NGO ships.

  “These people risked their lives to flee violence and abuse in war-torn Libya,” Penard said, as quoted in the press release. “They need to disembark in a Place of Safety without further delay – only then will their rescue be complete. The support of EU Member States has made a difference in the past. It must not stop now.”