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One-year-old baby and 294 refugees still waiting to be allowed to come ashore 8 days after rescue

The maritime authorities ignore the Ocean Viking’s 10 requests for a port of safety

A ONE-YEAR-OLD baby is among 295 refugees aboard a charity-operated rescue ship that is still waiting for a safe port eight days after they were saved from a watery grave.

The Ocean Viking rescue ship has been sailing in the central Mediterranean since April 24th. In that time, her crew has carried out four operations and has sent at least 10 requests to the maritime authorities calling for a port of safety.

International maritime law dictates that all ships must come to the aid of anyone in distress at sea and disembark them in a place of safety; neither the UN nor the European Union consider Libya, where the refugees escaped from, a safe place.

“We have 295 survivors [on deck],” said the Ocean Viking’s medial team leader Rebecca in a video posted online on Sunday by the ship’s operators SOS Mediterranee.

“Over 130 of them are unaccompanied minors, and one is an under-two-year-old baby,” she said.

“Among [the rescued] are some who watched families members, and many of them are showing signs of psychological distress from a prolonged time at sea.”

Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders‘ (MSF) announced yesterday that its rescue ship, the Geo Barents, had finally given permission to begin disembarking the rescued in Augusta, on the Italian island of Sicily.

The ship has been at sea without anywhere to go since it rescued 101 people in international waters off the coast of Libya on Saturday, April 23.

Almost half of the rescued onboard the Geo Barents are children, the ship’s humanitarian affairs officer Julie Melichar said in a video post on Sunday.

“And the vast majority of them are travelling without any adult to protect them,” she said.

“There are two babies as well as very young children who have already been intercepted at sea, forcefully returned to Libya and imprisoned.

“Over the last days, the survivors have been telling me about the extreme level of violence and human rights violations [that] were inflicted [upon them] in Libya.

“Some of them have been held in captivity for years, systematically electrocuted, hung upside down to the ceiling, flogged, beaten with metal sticks or iron wire.”

At the time of the video’s release, the rescued had spent eight days on the deck of the ship.

“This wait feels like a punishment for people who just want to be safe, like anyone else fleeing war, violence and extreme poverty in other parts of the world,” Ms Melichar said.

Top image shows some of the rescued looking out to sea from the deck of the Ocean Viking [Pic: SOS Mediterranee]

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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