Migrants resting on the Ocean Viking following their rescue off the coast of Libya | Photo: EPA/HANNAH WALLACE BOWMAN
Migrants resting on the Ocean Viking following their rescue off the coast of Libya | Photo: EPA/HANNAH WALLACE BOWMAN

There is a "psychological emergency" for the migrants on the Ocean Viking, according to Luca Pigozzi, a doctor onboard the rescue ship. The Ocean Viking has been waiting for a port to disembark for almost two weeks.

"The most important emergency onboard now is a psychological one," Luca Pigozzi of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a statement on the situation onboard the migrant rescue ship Ocean Viking. 

The migrants, he said, "have suffered and are suffering significant traumas. Many of them were subjected to torture or rape in Libya." 

''Now, while waiting to disembark in a confined space in the middle of the sea, their conditions cannot but worsen,'' he stressed. 

'Minors experiencing anxiety and uncertainty'

The Ocean Viking, a collaboration between MSF and SOS Mediterranee, reportedly rescued 356 people between August 9 and August 12. 

Some 103 of them are younger than 18. Most of these teenagers and children are on their own and not accompanied by an adult. 

"Most of the minors onboard have never lived in a safe location and do not know what it means to play without being at risk. They are experiencing anxiety and uncertainty. At times it seems to us that, for them, this lifestyle has become 'normal'. But normal it is not," the MSF doctor said. 

No solution yet for the ship

On August 13, the ship asked Italy and Malta to assign a safe port. Malta refused and Italy did not respond. 

Pigozzi said the migrants aboard the ship had been through a lot before they were rescued: "The people had spent many hours at sea on precarious boats without sleep, water or food. They were dehydrated, weak, dizzy and suffering from hypothermia and burns caused by fuel or the sun."

He said that the clinic on the ship was treating mostly skin and respiratory infections, but added that they "are also treating war wounds, such as [ones on] Libyan nationals with grenade shrapnel under their skin, and adults with chronic problems such as diabetes."

'Some enter our clinic and start sobbing'

According to Pigozzi, staff on the Ocean Viking have thusfar carried out 130 medical consultations and 63 injury treatments. 

"For some of the people rescued, the medical consultation by our team onboard marks the first time in a very long time that someone is listening to them. Some enter our clinic and start sobbing, simply because they are not used to receiving attention and respect," the doctor said. 

He added: "We do not have a safe port yet to disembark at but we will continue to assist our patients with all the attention and care we can." 

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