The NGO-run search and rescue ship Ocean Viking | PHOTO: Archive/ANSA/Francesco Ruta
The NGO-run search and rescue ship Ocean Viking | PHOTO: Archive/ANSA/Francesco Ruta

The organizations Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee are appealing once again to European governments to stop obstructing migrant search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee are renewing their calls on EU governments "to cease hindering lifesaving search and rescue operations, and to ensure a sustained and coordinated response to the ongoing humanitarian disaster in the Central Mediterranean." They said last week alone, "more than 700 people are reported to have attempted to flee Libya on flimsy boats, while renewed violence has caused civilian victims around Tripoli." 

Of the 215 rescued by the Ocean Viking in three separate rescue operations, almost one-third were children under the age of 18, the vast majority of whom were traveling alone, they added. 

'Lives still at risk'

"With a lack of coordination and dedicated search and rescue assets within the Libyan search and rescue region, and highly unstable weather conditions, people's lives continue to be put at risk," said Nicholas Romaniuk, SOS Mediteranee search and rescue coordinator onboard the Ocean Viking. 

"The past few days have been particularly deadly in the Central Mediterranean. There is a need for urgent coordinated intervention to prevent further loss of life in the coming weeks; the situation is very critical," Romaniuk said. 

'Humanitarian disaster in Libya is Europe's failure'

"The ongoing humanitarian disaster in Libya and the Mediterranean represents a failure of EU states to act in accordance with humanitarian principles and their obligations under international law," said Michael Fark, MSF Head of Mission. 

"Over the last few days alone, at least 440 people were intercepted by the EU-funded Libyan Coast Guard and forcibly returned to the conditions of violence and exploitation that the EU itself has acknowledged prevails in Libya," he said. "Meanwhile, the bodies of those who could not be rescued were washing up on the shore. Even as the Ocean Viking was awaiting instructions for disembarkation, we heard reports of another tragic shipwreck off Lampedusa. These are the devastating consequences of EU policies that European leaders can no longer ignore," Fark concluded.

MSF and SOS Mediteranee are calling on European governments to act immediately to assign a place of safety to the 151 survivors still stranded on vessels carrying out life-saving rescue operations at sea; to respond to the urgent need for proactive and sufficient European search and rescue capacity; to effectively implement a sustainable and predictable disembarkation mechanism; and to reconsider their political and material support of the system of forced returns to Libya, where the armed conflict and growing insecurity is increasingly affecting civilians, migrants and refugees. 

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