Migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean took refuge on a Shell oil platform before being handed over to Tunisian authorities on Tuesday. Rescue charities have accused the oil giant of complicity in the 'pullback'.
Up to 70 migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean took refuge on an oil platform overnight before being handed over to Tunisian authorities, energy giant Shell and the private rescue ship MV Louise Michel said Tuesday (January 4).
The Louise Michel said it rescued 31 people from a drifting wooden boat in poor weather while another 65-70 people held out all night on a Shell oil platform onto which they had climbed.
Shell in Tunisia confirmed that an unspecified number of migrants had reached its Miskar platform, located around 120 kilometers (75 miles) off the coast of Tunisia, on Monday evening. The platform lies within a European search and rescue (SAR) zone, but Shell refused to communicate with the responsible Maltese authorities, according to reports by the Louise Michel.
However the company stated that the migrants were "assisted and provided with water, food and dry clothes," adding that "the migrants were since safely transferred to the Tunisian Navy vessel on January 4, 2022, at around 2:00 pm Tunis time."
Banksy rescue ship criticizes 'pullback'
The Louise Michel stated that all the people on the oil platform were pulled back by the Tunisian Navy and raised concerns over the legality of the operation.
The Louise Michel is a 30-meter former French navy vessel decorated by elusive British artist Banksy, one of its sponsors.
It is one of several rescue ships operating in the Mediterranean, as tens of thousands of migrants try to reach Europe each year, often in unseaworthy and overcrowded boats.
It is not unusual for some stranded passengers to seek refuge on offshore oil platforms, although operators warn it can be dangerous.
More than 115,000 people arrived by sea in Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta last year, with 1,800 dead or missing, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
Sea-Watch International criticized Malta for refusing to act and neglecting its obligations in its SAR zone.