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Ocean Viking MSF Mer Méditerrannée

Mediterranean Sea

Ocean Viking rescue survivors finally offered place of safety

A message from the Ocean Viking recorded on 21 August 2019, as the ship remained stranded in the Mediterranean Sea for the 12th day since the first of four consecutive rescues, with 356 men women and children on board waiting to be allowed to disembark in a place of safety. August 2019. © MSF/Hannah Wallace Bowman
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After 14 days stranded at sea with 356 vulnerable men, women and children on board,MSF is relieved the Ocean Viking, operated in partnership with SOS MEDITERRANEE, has been offered a place of safety for disembarkation in Malta. While a coalition of countries have stepped up to give a humane response, European governments must stop these prolonged delays and ad hoc petty negotiations, and set up as a matter of urgency a disembarkation mechanism for people rescued at sea.

    We are relieved this long ordeal for the 356 people we have on board is finally over. Was it necessary to impose two weeks of excruciating wait for rescued people to be disembarked? These are people who have fled from desperate circumstances in their home countries and suffered horrific abuses in Libya,” says Jay Berger, MSF project coordinator on board the Ocean Viking.

    European States must take a hard look at the role they are playing in trapping people in these situations.
    Jay Berger, MSF project coordinator on board the Ocean Viking

    We’ve treated the war-wounded who were trapped on the frontline of the conflict in Tripoli and seen the scars of those who lived through the Tajoura detention centre airstrikes. We've talked to the survivors of shipwrecks and interceptions. We’ve heard stories of brutal beatings, electrocution, torture, including by melting plastic, and sexual violence – with even children not exempt from these horrors,” says Jay Berger.

    Despite calling for a humane response since Italy’s decision to close its ports to humanitarian vessels in June 2018, these past two weeks MSF has found itself in the exact same position we were in over year ago – stranded at sea with hundreds of vulnerable people on board while European States were paralysed by politics.

    It is sad that we have to repeat the same message to European leaders time and time again with no change,” says Berger. “They can no longer claim ignorance to the disaster unfolding in the Mediterranean Sea. After hundreds of deaths at sea and countless stories of suffering, it’s time for European leaders to recognise this humanitarian disaster for what it is and finally step up with humane solutions – starting with the setting up of a mechanism to allow swift disembarkation."

    MSF is calling on European States to:

    • Put in place a sustainable and predictable disembarkation system that safeguards survivor’s rights;
    • End their political and material support to the system of forced returns to Libya where refugees and migrants are placed in arbitrary and inhumane detention – people fleeing Libya simply cannot be returned there;
    • Respond to the urgent need for proactive and sufficient European search and rescue capacity;
    • Stop punitive actions against NGOs trying to provide lifesaving assistance in lieu of a government-led response to this crisis.

    After disembarkation we will have a port call to resupply and change crew,” Berger concludes.

    As long as people are drowning and continue to flee Libya, we remain committed to saving lives at sea.
    Jay Berger, MSF project coordinator on board the Ocean Viking