Survivors rescued by the NGO ship SOS Mediterranee say that they had been subjected to violence during their journey towards Europe.They say that had spent three days at sea prior to the rescue and had run out of water and fuel shortly after the journey began.
The passengers on board the six boats rescued by the Ocean Viking, which as of Thursday was still in international waters awaiting a port in which to disembark, departed from Libya, according to the survivors. Some reported having spent up to three days at sea before being rescued.
This week, survivors told the NGO's team onboard about the horrific abuse they suffered in Libya and about their crossing attempt via the sea.
Traffickers had 'guns bigger than my arm'
"When we got on the boat, the smugglers hit everyone. They had guns bigger than my arm. We ran out of water and fuel quickly.We didn't have a satellite phone, we had no way of contacting anyone. At one point, we saw an empty boat in the middle of the sea, maybe you had rescued the people, maybe they were taken back by the Libyans.
On the empty boat, we found small water bottles, we found a fuel cannister. And so we continued, and we just prayed and prayed, and thank God you found us", Zidane, a 31-year-old writer from Yemen explained to an SOS MEDITERRANEE team member onboard.
17 hours crammed in the hold of a wooden boat
"Zidane spent 17 hours in the hold of a wooden boat, crammed together below deck with around 24 other people. He was rescued by our team on August 1, after the Sea-Watch 3 had spotted the boat while proceeding to the rescue of another boat in distress," a statement issued by the NGO stated.
"All rescues occurred in international waters - four in the Libyan Search and Rescue Region (SRR), one in the Tunisian SRR and one in the Maltese SRR," it continued.
"The sailing boat Nadir of ResQship, monitoring the central Mediterranean, assisted several boats in distress, two persons in critical conditions received lifesaving medical treatment on board. One man had to be resuscitated by a paramedic before they could eventually be medically evacuated to Malta.
Most boats were reportedly rescued by Italian, Maltese and Tunisian Coast Guards hours after NGOs alerted them to their distress and sent Mayday relays on their behalf," the statement added.