European states must take a hard look at the role they are playing in trapping people at sea, says MSF’s project co-ordinator on board the ship
MIGRANT rescue ship the Ocean Viking finally reached land yesterday, disembarking over 300 men, women and children in Malta who had spent two weeks stranded in the Mediterranean.
The crew of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee ship saved the lives of 356 migrants off the coast of Libya in three separate rescue missions two weeks ago.
Both Malta and Italy closed their ports to the ships of humanitarian NGOs after the rescues, forcing the Ocean Viking to remain in international waters between the two Mediterranean nations.
Yesterday morning, however, Valletta finally allowed the ship to dock after France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania agreed to host the rescued migrants.
MSF said it was relieved that the Ocean Viking had been offered a place of safety but added that European governments must urgently set up a disembarkation mechanism for people rescued at sea.
Jay Berger, MSF project co-ordinator on board the Ocean Viking, said: “We’ve treated the war wounded who were trapped on the front line of the conflict in Tripoli and seen the scars of those who lived through the Tajoura detention centre air strikes.
“We’ve talked to the survivors of shipwrecks and interceptions. We’ve heard stories of brutal beatings, electrocution, torture, including by melting plastic and sexual violence, with even children not exempt from these horrors.
“European states must take a hard look at the role they are playing in trapping people in these situations.”
Meanwhile, Italian charity Mediterranean: Saving Lives announced yesterday that its ship the Mare Juno had left Sicily at sunset on Thursday “to return to the central Mediterranean to monitor and report human rights violations and, where there are people in danger, to save lives.”