EU nations urged to act as 104 migrants remain stranded aboard rescue ship Ocean Viking

FILE PHOTO: Members of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) talk to migrants onboard Ocean Viking after a rescue operation, October 13, 2019.
FILE PHOTO: Members of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) talk to migrants onboard Ocean Viking after a rescue operation, October 13, 2019.   -  
Julia Schaefermeyer/SOS MEDITERRANEE via REUTERS
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A French NGO has called on European authorities on Monday to designate a safe disembarkation spot for 104 migrants stranded at seas aboard Ocean Viking rescue ship.

SOS Mediterranee, which runs the ship along with Doctors without Borders (MSF), said among those aboard are two pregnant women and 41 children younger than 18.

"Their anxiety is growing", said Jay Berger, MSF's project coordinator aboard the Ocean Viking. "They're unsure of what's going to happen to them next."

On October 18, the Ocean Viking picked up 104 people aboard an inflatable boat in distress 50 nautical miles off the Libyan coast. They have been "left in limbo" in the past 10 days, the NGO said.

Libyan authorities say they assigned the port of Tripoli as a safe disembarkation site for the refugees, a statement subsequently refuted by SOS Mediterranee.

Italian and Maltan authorities have not yet replied to requests by the group to allow the ship to dock.

Migrants attempting to reach Europe in recent years have mainly been fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Dozens have also been killed trying to make the Mediterranean crossing.

Confirmed deaths on the three main Mediterranean migratory routes in the first nine months of the year were 994, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The number is the lowest recorded since 2014. It is not because of an improvement in safety conditions but rather a reduction in the number of people attempting to cross, the IOM said.

Interior ministers from five European Union countries said last month they had agreed on a new plan to distribute migrants saved from the Mediterranean under a deal aimed at relieving the pressure on southern EU states.

READ MORE: EU countries stalemate over migration relocation plans

“The situation currently faced by the Ocean Viking shows how fragile the announced EU disembarkation pilot project is. This situation has lasted for too long.” said Louise Guillaumat, Deputy-Director of SOS Mediterranee's Operations.

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