The organization SOS Mediterranee has said that it is back at sea due to a lack of EU migrant rescue initiatives. It underscored that it will not force entry into Italian territorial waters but that it will also not take migrants back to Libya.
Louise Guillaumat, deputy director SOS Mediterranee operations, said at a press conference that the organization would not be forcing its way into Italian territorial waters but that it refuses to take people back to Libya out of respect for international sea law.
'Returning to sea after a lack of EU initiatives'
Sophie Beau, cofounder of the French organization SOS Mediterranee, held a press conference in Paris on Monday to announce that the ship Ocean Viking would return to the Mediterranean Sea for migrant search and rescue operations, as the ship Aquarius has been blocked in the port of Marseille since last year.
''The prolonged absence of initiatives on the part of European states to create a lasting, shared, and predictable rescue mechanism forces civil society, through SOS Mediterranee, to return to sea to save lives," Beau said. "Today more than ever, we are calling on the help of European citizens so that they can aid us in our rescue missions," she said.
SOS Mediterranee works in partnership with Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Minister Salvini criticizes new ship
Since Thursday, the French NGOs SOS Mediterranee and MSF have been back at sea with a new ship, the Ocean Viking, to resume search and rescue (SAR) operations near the Libyan coast. The two were engaged in such operations with the Aquarius unit 2018. The Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking has a 13-member crew including 13 rescue workers from the SOS Mediterranee and 9 from MSF. Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini criticized the move, saying that ''now they are even leaving from northern seas to come help the traffickers in the Mediterranean."