The map shows the position of Sarost 5 off the Tunisian coast
The map shows the position of Sarost 5 off the Tunisian coast

The Sarost 5 with 40 migrants onboard and stuck at sea for the past two weeks will be able to land in Tunisia, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed announced on Sunday. In the meantime, the Spanish NGO Open Arms who returned to within a few miles of the ship to offer assistance has left the area.

The 40 migrants that have been stuck for weeks off Zarzis will finally be able to land in Tunisia after Prime Minister Youssef Chahed announced on Sunday that the decision had been made for humanitarian reasons. The prime minister stressed, however, that the migrants would not want to remain in the country since they had repeatedly said that they wanted to reach Europe. 

Chahed added that the Sarost 5 case must not be repeated. The reference is to the EU proposal to create regional landing platforms outside of European territory in collaboration with the UNHCR and the IOM, an idea that Tunisia has always been against. It is not clear when the 40 migrants will disembark nor in what port, though that of Zarzis is the closest. 

Likely transfer to Medenine

The Tunisian authorities have reportedly not officially notified the authorization to land to Capatin Ali Aiji but the UNHCR, the Tunisian Red Crescent and the IOM have begun preparing for the migrants in the Zarzis port, where they will likely be received prior to being transferred to the migrant facilities in Medenine, the largest city in southwestern Tunisia. There, over 246 people are already being hosted and it will be there that the Sarost 5 migrants receive initial treatment, Red Cresecnt chief Mongi Slim said. 

Meanwhile, the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms ship who had returned to a few miles away from the Sarost 5 to offer support, has already left the area. 

End of an odyssey

The odyssey of the 40 migrants after being refused authorization to land by the Maltese, French and Italian authorities seems to have thus ended after beginning two weeks ago. Their boat had left from Libya and on July 16 the Sarost 5, a supply ship under a company by the same name in the gas sector and working mainly in Tunisia had rescued them after they began having trouble at sea. 

Onboard are a group of migrants between the ages of 17 and 36, including two pregnant women, from Egypt, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. Since then, the ship has been stuck off the coast of Tunisia while waiting for authorization to land. ''The first rescue intervention was in Maltese waters and there was a controversy over which country could take in the migrants, the Tunisian prime minister said. However, the Maltese government has rejected accusations that it broke international law by forcing the ship to go to Tunisia.

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