SOS Méditerranée asks France, Spain and Greece for help to disembark 234 migrants

The Marseille NGO is asking for the first time the French, Spanish and Greek states to help them find a safe harbor where 234 migrants rescued from their ship Ocean Viking can be disembarked in the Mediterranean, before the weather gets worse.

It’s urgent. “A strong wind, high waves and a drop in temperature by the end of the week”, This is the great fear of SOS Méditerranée, which asks for help from France, Spain and Greece in a statement released on Thursday.

This is all the more urgent as “Stocks are starting to run out” for the 234 migrants aboard his ambulance ship.

Since its first rescue on 22 October, the NGO, based in Marseille, has requested, as usual and in compliance with maritime law, the authorities of the search area, in Libya and Malta, without obtaining a reply., Director and co – founder Sophie Beau told AFP, contacted by phone Thursday.

It then moved closer to Italy, but the recent change of government in Rome, and the anti-migrant declarations of its leaders, leave little hope of getting the green light there.

“The Minister of the Interior targeted the Ocean Viking in his statements”, recalls Sophie Beau. Matteo Piantedosi has in fact announced that he has issued a directive warning the police forces and the port authorities that his ministry is evaluating the prohibition of entry into the territorial waters of the ship chartered by SOS Méditerranée and by the Geo Barents of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which both fly the Norwegian flag, as well as the German boat of the NGO SOS Humanity.

The two ships had not received any official communication on this decision on Thursday, but “however, they are faced with a total blockade on the high seas and an implicit ban on entry into Italian ports”, according to SOS Mediterraneo.

The NGO then turned to the maritime authorities of France, Spain and Greece, “who are better able to provide assistance, to facilitate the designation of a safe harbor”.

We are not asking France to open a port for us, but to help us find a solution.

Sophie Beau, SOS Mediterraneo

“It’s the first time we’ve asked him”, explained Ms Beau, who specified that the request was made on Wednesday evening. On Thursday noon, SOS Méditerranée received no response.

The director insisted: “We are not asking France to open a port for us, but to help us find a solution”, primarily in Italy or Malta, the states closest to the Viking Ocean, currently in southern Sicily.

Since the beginning of the year, 1,765 migrants have disappeared in the Mediterranean, of which 1,287 in the central Mediterranean, the most dangerous migration route in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The new Italian executive, dominated by the far right and which had campaigned on the promise of “stop the landings”, calls on countries whose flagship relief vessels are committed to welcoming part of the migrants arriving on their territory by sea.

“If you commute between the African coasts and Italy for the transport of migrants, you are blatantly violating maritime law and international laws. And if an NGO ship flies the flag, say, German, the equation is the following either Germany recognizes it and takes charge of or becomes a pirate ship “, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni explained this in a forthcoming book

According to the Italian Interior Ministry, 85,991 people arrived by sea in Italy from 1 January to 2 November 2022, half of whom are citizens of Tunisia, Egypt and Bangladesh.

There were 53,825 last year in the same period and 28,343 in 2020. However, the European Commission recently indicated that only 112 of the nearly 86,000 arrived since the beginning of the year will be welcomed by two other EU countries (38 in France , 74 in Germany), a very insufficient figure in the eyes of Roma.

Requested on Thursday by the AFP, the Italian Ministry of the Interior did not respond. Minister Matteo Piantedosi was Matteo Salvini’s chief of staff when the latter blocked NGO ships at sea in 2019.

Salvini inherited the infrastructural portfolio in the government led by Mrs. Meloni, a position that gives him control of Italian ports. “Where should a Norwegian boat go? It’s simple, in Norway”the Ligue chief tweeted Thursday.

with AFP

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