Group of migrants of the Sarost 5 docking in the port of Zarzis. CREDIT: IOM
Group of migrants of the Sarost 5 docking in the port of Zarzis. CREDIT: IOM

The Sarost 5 ship docked on Wednesday in the Tunisian port of Zarzis after Tunisian prime minister had given green light on Saturday. The ship had been stuck for weeks in limbo, unable to land after taking 40 migrants onboard that had been in distress at sea.

The Tunisian-flagged Sarost 5 docked in Zarzis on Wednesday with 40 migrants onboard including two pregnant women and one injured person. The ship had been stuck at sea for over two weeks off the Tunisian coastline after failing to get permission to land at any port. 

Awaiting the migrants at the port were personnel from the Red Crescent, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UNHCR as well as Tunisian foreign minister Adel Jarboui. Photos of the docking have been circulating online all day. 

Migrants to be transferred to Medenine foyer in Southern Tunisia 

All the migrants will be transferred to a center in Medenine in southern Tunisia except for the two pregnant women, who were taken to a clinic. ''Thank God everything ended well and that the migrants and safe and sound,'' Sarost 5 captain Ali Aiji commented to ANSA. 

There were moments of tension on the ship in the morning when the announcement came that the ship would be docking in Tunisia, with some migrants reportedly refusing to disembark in the North African country and asking to be taken to a European country instead. Mediation offered by representatives of international organizations and the Tunisian Red Crescent was able to calm the situation down. 

PM announced authorization but 'must not be repeated' 

After weeks of being in standby, on Saturday Prime Minister Youssef Chahed announced in Parliament that authorization had been granted to the ship for ''humanitarian reasons''. Chahed added that the Sarost 5 case must not be repeated. The implicit reference was 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 is strongly against. The ship had been refused authorization to land by the Maltese, French and Italian authorities. 

The migrants had left from Libya on a boat 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. 

The group of migrants was between the ages of 17 and 36, from Egypt, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. The rescue 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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