Rescue ship with 422 migrants docks in Sicily

  SYRACUSE - The rescue vessel Ocean Viking on Monday docked into the port of Augusta in Sicily after urgently requesting a place to disembark on Sunday. The ship, owned and run by the humanitarian organisation SOS Mediterranee, saved 424 migrants in 48 hours, including 140 minors, who were attempting the journey from Libya to Europe. The ship has begun testing those migrants after eight covid cases were found on board over the weekend.

  The 424 migrants were rescued from various dinghies in the Mediterranean, often dangerously over capacity and unprepared to make the journey in rough weather conditions. On Saturday, a pregnant woman and her partner were urgently evacuated from the ship by helicopter to a hospital in Malta, leaving 422 crammed on board. 

  On Sunday, SOS Mediterranee have released a statement by Luisa Albera, the Search and Rescue Coordinator onboard the Ocean Viking, saying, “this week, people tried fleeing Libya across the central Mediterranean in numbers unseen for months amid weather conditions favourable to departures. The team on the Ocean Viking saved the lives of 424 people, not only because it is our obligation as seafarers, but also because as human beings, we continue to believe in the right to life for everyone. 

  “We currently care for 422 survivors who remain on our ship, some of whom are in precarious health situations and under constant observation in our onboard clinic. Eight survivors tested positive to COVID-19 in rapid tests administered by our medical team. We have procedures in place for this scenario, we were prepared and are able to isolate positive cases and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on board. But although strict COVID-19 mitigation protocols apply onboard the Ocean Viking, this is a vessel of 69 metres length. This situation is a further reason for the remaining 422 survivors, who are in confined space on the aft deck, to be promptly disembarked in a Place of Safety.

  “The 422 survivors currently on our ship – including babies, small children, pregnant women, minors traveling alone – have the same rights as anyone rescued at sea. They urgently need to disembark in a Place of Safety.”