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Italian and Maltese authorities refuse to allow over 980 people to come ashore

The Ocean Viking, Humanity 1 and Geo Barents rescue ships are kept waiting days after rescues

OVER 980 people, including hundreds of children, on three activist-run rescue ships have been waiting for days for the Italian maritime authorities to allow them to come ashore.

The three ships — the Humanity 1, the Ocean Viking, and the Geo Barents — are waiting off the coast of the Italian island of Sicily.

The Humanity 1 carried out its first rescue mission in international waters on October 23, bringing on 45 people. Over the next three days, her crew carried out three more rescues, saving the lives of 180 people in total.

One of the rescued, a child suffering from severe abdominal pain, had to be evacuated from the ship to Italy on October 28.

“We have now on board a baby of seven months and more than 100 unaccompanied minors,” the ship’s mental health representative Luca said in a video message from the ship yesterday.

“They are suffering the worst psychological conditions on board. They went through multiple traumatising events in their countries of origin, on their way to Libya, in Libya and at sea.

“They also show us many signs of physical violence, such as gunshot and knife [wounds]. The survivors of our second rescue told us that in their first night at sea, they lost at least six people.

“People [have shown] signs of dissociation, intrusive images and thoughts, confused thoughts and insomnia.

“We have asked the authorities around 10 times for a place of safety, with no result.”

European charity SOS Mediterranee warned today that the 234 survivors on its rescue ship, the Ocean Viking, are exhausted, dehydrated, and require immediate medical attention.

The ship, which is also supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), carried out six rescue operations in the central Mediterranean between October 22 and 26.

“The ever-worsening blockages faced by rescue ships in this stretch of the sea since 2018 are discriminatory and unacceptable,” SOS Mediterranee’s director of operations Xavier Lauth said today.

“Keeping survivors onboard ships hostage of political debate longer would be the result of a dramatic failure of European members and associated states.”

The IFRC’s operations manager Frido Herinckx said: “We provided health care, food, water, hygiene items, psychological first aid and opportunity to call and connect with family members. But they cannot afford to wait any longer, this uncertainty is making the situation unbearable, with stress growing day by day.”

The Geo Barents rescue ship, operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), is carrying 576 people.

Her crew began saving lives on October 27, when they saved 268 people — including three pregnant women and 33 minors — from four unsafe boats inside Malta’s search-and-rescue (SAR) zone within four hours.

Over the next two days, the crew saved another 304 lives — at least one of these rescues was carried out in Malta’s SAR zone again.

MSF said yesterday that the Geo Barent’s four requests to Malta and one to Italy for a place to disembark the rescued have been rejected.

Meanwhile, rescuers in Greece are searching for around 60 people after a shipwreck off the island of Evia, near Athens last last night. Ten survivors have been found so far — nine on the uninhabited Evia island and one other by a passing cargo ship.

It is thought that around 68 people were on the boat, which the survivors reportedly said had set sail from Izmir, Turkey.


Top image shows people on an inflatable boat after the Humanity 1’s crew provided them with life jackets as the ship waits behind them [Pic: Max Cavallari / SOS Humanity]

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Published by Ben Cowles

Is a journalist and podcaster

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