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Ocean Viking rescue ship carrying 114 migrants remains stranded one week later

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By Euronews  with AFP
The Ocean Viking rescue ship pictured in July 2020
The Ocean Viking rescue ship pictured in July 2020   -   Copyright  Fabio Peonia/LaPresse

A rescue ship that saved 114 migrants off the coast of Libya last week is still in search of a safe port to land them.

A week after picking up the migrants, the Ocean Viking rescue ship was still stuck at sea, according to the NGO SOS Méditerranée.

"A week after their rescue, they are still at sea with no certainty regarding their debarkation," the Marseille-based NGO said in a statement on Thursday.

"Despite the care provided by the Ocean Viking teams, signs of fatigue, exhaustion and anxiety are multiplying among the people rescued,” it added.

The NGO warned that “harsh winter weather conditions at sea, the cold, and the permanent humidity to which they are exposed constitute additional difficulties".

It appealed to authorities to give it permission to make port to disembark the rescued people to safety.

The Ocean Viking, chartered by SOS Méditerranée in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), had rescued 114 people from an inflatable boat in distress in international waters off Libya on 16 December.

Among them were 72 men, 11 women, and 31 minors, 27 of whom were unaccompanied. Two newborns and a child under the age of four are among the minors, SOS Méditerranée said.

Despite persistent insecurity, Libya remains an important crossing point for tens of thousands of migrants seeking to reach Europe each year via the Italian coast, 300 km away.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), nearly 23,000 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean since 2014, after trying to reach Europe, including nearly 1,700 since the beginning of 2021.

“In this cold and in confined spaces, the situation can only get worse by the hour for the survivors on board the Ocean Viking”, said Luisa Albera, Search and Rescue Coordinator onboard Ocean Viking.

“These past three years, we have been repeatedly stranded at sea with shipwrecked people onboard; we know the implications of such difficult situations too well,” she added.

“They lead to grave consequences, acute psychological distress and increasing deterioration of physical health. We must disembark now.”

In November this year, the same ship was left stranded for nine days in rough waters amid a standoff with European authorities.

It eventually brought 360 migrants and refugees to the Sicilian port of Augusta.