Rescue ship stranded at sea after picking up dozens of migrants

Italy and Malta have refused safe harbour for a German humanitarian rescue ship, after it picked up 64 migrants stranded off western Libya. The migrants were crossing the Mediterranean sea on an overcrowded dinghy in an attempt to reach Europe.

As Libyan authorities failed to respond to the distress call, Sea Eye’s rescue vessel named Alan Kurdi rescued the migrants. The 64 people on board included 10 women, five children and a newborn baby. The migrants were rescued within Libya’s search and rescue zone off Zwara west of Tripoli.

Sea Eye spokeswoman Carlotta Weibl said, “Tunisia and Libya did not respond at all, and Italy and Malta said they are not responsible and we are not allowed to enter their territorial waters.” The Alan Kurdi is named after a two-year-old Syrian boy who lost his life in the Mediterranean in 2015 as his family fled war.

On Wednesday, Libyan coastguard spokesman, General Ayoub Qassem, warned NGOs not to cross in to Libya’s territorial waters. “We are an institution worthy of respect and, in the event of the violation of our country’s sovereignty, we will respond according to international law,” he said. “We are tired of NGOs violating our sovereignty and sparking rumours about us.”

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said: “A German-registered vessel, a German NGO, a German ship owner and a skipper from Hamburg — best it heads for Hamburg.” He added that he had personally written to the captain of the rescue ship warning him to “not enter Italian territorial waters.”

However, Sea Eye said the journey to Germany could take up to four weeks and there isn’t enough food or water for everyone.

French interior minister Christophe Castaner said there were “disagreements, in particular on the docking of rescue boats in the closest port.” However, he said he had “reaffirmed to the Italian minister France’s solidarity with regards to welcoming refugees who might be on these boats.”

Two other vessels, with a total of 91 people on board, had sent distress calls in recent days. However, according to IOM, there is “still no news” of either of the boats, despite the Alan Kurdi spending several days searching the zone.

TMP – 11/04/2019

Photo: Sea Eye / Twitter. Six-year-old Manuel is one of the 64 rescued migrants on board Sea Eye’s Alan Kurdi, a vessel named after a two-year-old Syrian boy who lost his life in the Mediterranean in 2015.

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