The sea rescue NGO fears “a strong wind, high waves and a drop in temperature by the end of the week”, adding in a press release published Thursday that “provisions are starting to run out” on board.
Since its first rescue on October 22, SOS Méditerranée has requested, as usual and in accordance with maritime law, the authorities of the search area, in Libya and Malta, without obtaining a response, the director told AFP. and co-founder of the NGO Sophie Beau, by phone Thursday.
She then approached Italy, but the recent rise to power of the extreme right in Rome and the anti-migrant declarations of its leaders leave little hope of obtaining a green light there.
“The Minister of the Interior targeted the Ocean Viking in his statements”, recalls Sophie Beau. Matteo Piantedosi has announced that he has issued a directive warning police forces and port authorities that his ministry is considering a ban on entry into territorial waters of the vessel chartered by SOS Méditerranée and the Geo Barents of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), which both fly the Norwegian flag, as well as the German boat of the NGO SOS Humanity.
On Thursday, the two ships had not received any official communication on such a decision. SOS Méditerranée then turned to the maritime authorities of France, Spain and Greece.
“This is the first time that we have asked them,” explained Ms. Beau, who specifies that the request was made on Wednesday evening. Thursday at midday, SOS Méditerranée had received no response.
The director insisted: “We are not asking France to open a port for us, but to help us find a solution”, in priority in Italy or Malta, the states closest to the Viking Ocean, currently in southern Sicily.
– “Tense minds” on board –
Germany, for its part, sent a diplomatic note to Italy: “In view of the humanitarian situation on board the ship ‘Humanity 1’, the Italian government has been asked to provide rapid assistance”, indicated to AFP a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The civil organizations involved in the rescue of migrants make an important contribution to the safeguarding of human lives in the Mediterranean,” according to a press release sent to AFP by the embassy in Rome.
Since the beginning of the year, 1,765 migrants have disappeared in the Mediterranean, including 1,287 in the central Mediterranean, the most dangerous migratory route in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
“The spirits are more and more tense, there is not much space,” a press photographer who is on the Ocean Viking told AFP.
The crew gives Italian or French lessons and organizes musical entertainment to occupy the rescued passengers. Many unaccompanied minors and children are on board, the youngest of whom is three years old, according to him.
– “Pirate ship” –
The new Italian executive, which had campaigned by promising to “stop the landings”, requires countries whose humanitarian ships fly the flag to commit to welcoming some of the migrants arriving on their territory by sea.
“If you shuttle between African shores and Italy to transport migrants, you are blatantly violating maritime law and international laws. If then an NGO ship flies the flag of, say, German, the equation is as follows either Germany recognizes it and takes charge of it, or it becomes a pirate ship,” Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni explained in a book to be published on Friday.
According to the Italian Interior Ministry, 85,991 people arrived by sea in Italy between January 1 and November 2, 2022, half of whom are nationals of Tunisia, Egypt and Bangladesh.
They were 53,825 last year over the same period, and 28,343 in 2020.
However, the European Commission recently indicated that only 112 migrants out of the almost 86,000 who have 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 Rome.