An aid ship rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean has issued a state of emergency after six people on board attempted suicide in 24 hours.
"This is an unprecedented step in the history of SOS Mediterranée, triggered first and foremost by the rapid deterioration of the mental health of some of the survivors on board," the sea rescue charity running the ship said in a statement.
There are a group of 44 people on board who are "in a state of acute mental distress" who have "expressed intentions to inflict harm both on themselves and on others, including members of the crew, and expressed suicidal ideas," the rescue organisation added.
The ship, Ocean Viking, had rescued more than 100 migrants on June 25 after resuming normal operations following the coronavirus lockdown. Another two rescues were carried out on June 30.
Since then, the rescue ship placed seven requests with maritime authorities in Italy and Malta but the ship was not allowed to enter a safe harbour. Euronews was not immediately able to reach the Italian and Maltese authorities on Friday.
Six migrants have attempted to commit suicide on board the ship, including two who have gone on a hunger strike.
Among the 180 people on board the ship include 25 minors, 17 of whom are unaccompanied, the aid organisation said.
Search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea paused while many European countries were on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many rescue teams have said they tried to deploy COVID-19 protocols but rescue groups have warned that the pandemic has not deterred people from making the trip.
Several migrants on a Sea Watch rescue ship in June reportedly tested positive for the virus, according to Italian authorities.