“Ocean Viking”: The ship can return on a mission “as shortly as possible”

HUMANITARIAN The “Ocean Viking” docked Tuesday in the port of Marseille after 23 days at sea and the rescue of 356 migrants

Des membres d'équipage de l'"Ocean Viking" secourent des migrants, le 10 août 2019.

After the rescue of 365 migrants and despite a difficult context, the Ocean Viking, the ship chartered by SOS Méditerranée and Médecins sans frontières, will leave “as soon as possible”, the NGO for sea rescue announced on Friday.

The boat will go back to the sea “as soon as possible, it’s a matter of days,” said Nicholas Romaniuk, the search and rescue coordinator, at a press conference on board the ship.

NGOs denounce the lack of coordination
Maintenance and repair work on the equipment is in progress, “as soon as all this is done, we will leave,” he said. The crew is “tired” but remains “highly motivated” despite the complexity of the rescues off the Libyan coast, he said. The Ocean Viking docked on Tuesday in the port of Marseille after 23 days at sea and the rescue of four makeshift boats in distress. The 356 survivors were landed off Malta after a 12-day wait in the Mediterranean.

Nicholas Romaniuk denounced the lack of coordination that leads to the death of hundreds of migrants sometimes on “13.15-meter rubber boats, with almost 200 people on board”. “As soon as you see a boat, you call the Libyan coastguard but they don’t answer,” he said.

“Their greatest fear is to be brought back to Libya”
The Ocean Viking requires “14,000 euros a day and it is mainly citizens who finance our missions”, stressed Sophie Bau, Director General of SOS Méditerranée France. Beyond rescue operations, the disembarkation of migrants is tightening the countries of the European Union, in a context of suspicions towards humanitarian organizations, sometimes accused of playing into the hands of smugglers.

“It has been fourteen months (…) since the closure of Italian ports”, that we have been waiting for the implementation of landing mechanisms, Sophie Bau recalled. “It can very, very quickly turn violent when people have no prospect of landing in a safe port: their biggest fear is to be taken back to Libya” where they describe deplorable living conditions, she said.

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