A charity ship has sailed towards Italy’s Sicilian port with 236 people rescued in the Mediterranean from traffickers’ boats, while Italian coastguard and border police brought 532 others to Lampedusa.
The maritime rescue group SOS Mediterranee said on Saturday a ship it operates, Ocean Viking, pulled the migrants to safety four days ago from two rubber dinghies.
A shipwreck leaving no survivors, a simultaneous rescue of two overloaded dinghies, several interceptions by the Libyan coastguard. Death, survival, forced returns. Within a week, the SOS MEDITERRANEE teams witnessed what can only be described as a series of consequences of an ever-worsening disaster. Such a succession of events owes nothing to chance. Amid difficult weather and sea conditions, our team has once again seen that this situation is first and foremost a man-made catastrophe.
“Human beings in Libya consciously take advantage of other human beings trapped in appalling conditions, who have no choice but to take the dangerous journey on flimsy boats no matter the risks. Over the years, political leaders of the European Union, on the other hand, have consciously decided not to do everything in their power to save these lives, to stop coordinating search and rescue operations and to enable the Libyan coastguard to unlawfully return people to Libya. Maritime authorities in Libya, Italy and Malta are knowingly not informing nor coordinating non-governmental rescue vessels, which are already very scarce, to conduct life-saving operations”, says Frédéric Penard, Director of Operations for SOS MEDITERRANEE.
In a statement, SOS Mediterranee said that many of the survivors on the Ocean Viking told the team on board about the violence they suffered at the hands of the smugglers in Libya. Seeing the unseaworthy rubber boats and the high waves on the night they were supposed to cross the Mediterranean, many were beaten and forced to embark. Among those who endured beatings are some of the 119 unaccompanied minors currently onboard Ocean Viking.
Al Jazeera / SOS MEDITERRANEE