Ocean Viking, rescue ship in Mediterranean Sea, declares emergency after six migrants attempt suicide
The ship, which is in limbo in the Mediterranean off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, has been waiting for over a week for permission from Italy or Malta to offload the migrants at one of their ports.
Rome: A sea rescue charity said on Friday that its ship, carrying rescued migrants, declared an onboard state of emergency in the Mediterranean Sea after six migrants tried to kill themselves. The distress of others that no country would let them on land put the safety of the crew and other survivors at risk.
SOS Mediterranee, which operates the Ocean Viking, said in a statement that some of the 180 migrants aboard have started physical fighting among themselves or been threatening fellow survivors and crew members.
The charity said it lodged seven requests for permission to enter a safe harbor, but Italy and Malta said no. There were no immediate government responses from either country about the alleged refusals.
The migrants were rescued from the unseaworthy boats of people smugglers in the central Mediterranean during four operations between 25 June and 30 June.
SOS Mediterranee said the first operation took place in international waters where Italy and Malta have overlapping rescue jurisdiction, while the other rescues occurred in Malta's search-and-rescue area.
The people rescued include a pregnant woman and 25 minors, 17 of them traveling without relatives or guardians, the charity said.
SOS Mediterranee said two migrants jumped overboard in what the organisation said appeared to be suicide attempts and were rescued from the sea again, while three others were stopped before they plunged off the ship.
It reported that another passenger tried to kill himself on board, the charity said.
It called the "concerning behavior and decline of mental health" of some of the rescued passengers a "direct result of the unnecessary standoff at sea and lack of solution" for a port.
SOS Mediterranee expressed worry that "in addition to the acute psychological distress several of the survivors find themselves in, the deteriorating weather conditions pose an even greater threat to the lives of those who might try to reach shore by jumping off" the Ocean Viking.
Both Italy and Malta have taken a hard line on private rescue boats, expressing concern that such operations could encourage Libya-based human traffickers to keep launching migrants toward Europe in dangerous conditions.
The two countries have also insisted fellow European Union members take in more migrants as asylum-seekers since those who reach Europe's southern shores are often aiming to make nations in northern Europe their final destinations. Few nations have answered the Italian and Maltese appeals.
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