After four rescue operations, the Ocean Viking is awaiting a port of safety. Maltese and Italian authorities rescue almost 200 ahead of talks on relocation.

According to a Tunisian National Guard spokesperson a fishing boat with 23 migrants aboard has sunk off the Tunisian coast of El Aouabed. Nine people were rescued and fourteen are missing. The NGO Alarm Phone stated that more deaths are expected to be confirmed.

In the course of this week, Maltese authorities have rescued 101 people in two operations in Malta’s Search and Rescue (SAR) zone. Before rescuing 56 people on Thursday, the Armed Forces Malta (AFM) rescued 45 people on Wednesday, from a wooden boat in distress. The NGO Alarm Phone had alerted Maltese authorities to the boat. On Tuesday, another group of 95 people were brought to the island after having been rescued by the Italian Coastguard. They could disembark after a short stand-off between Italian and Maltese authorities over which state was responsible.

The rescue vessel Ocean Viking rescued another 36 people from a wooden boat in international waters in the Central Mediterranean after being requested to do so by Maltese authorities. The operation was the fourth rescue after the Norwegian-flagged ship picked up 182 people in three separate operation in the course of this week, bringing the number of rescued people to a total of 218.

The ship, jointly operated by the NGOs SOS MEDITERANEE and MSF, requested a safe port from Malta and Italy. Libyan maritime authorities had assigned the port of Al Khums, which the crew stressed did not qualify as a safe port. Last weekend, Italian authorities allowed the Ocean Viking to disembark 82 people on the island of Lampedusa, indicating a shift from the former government’s closed ports policies.

In a meeting in Rome, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte jointly called for an EU-level, automatic system for taking in migrants saved from the Mediterranean. At a meeting next week in Malta, representatives from Italy, France, Germany, Malta and Finland are set to discuss temporary relocation mechanisms. Ahead of the talks, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced that Germany is prepared to take in 25% of migrants who arrive in Italy after being rescued at sea. .

Last week, the EU renewed the mandate of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia for another six months, still without deploying ships. Before the naval part of the mission was suspended in March of this year, Sophia rescued ca. 50,000 people at the Mediterranean.

Missing Migrants recorded 953 deaths of people trying to cross the Mediterranean.

For further information:


Photo: (CC) Kristof Abrath, September 2010

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.