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Italy claims EU agrees deal to take in migrants on the Ocean Viking but crew says it's not been given a port

THE NGO migrant rescue ship Ocean Viking with 82 migrants on board remains at sea without a port of safety despite Italy declaring yesterday that it had reached a deal with EU countries to take them in. 

Yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his new government, along with the Democratic Party, had reached a deal with “several EU countries” that will “ensure a rapid and suitable solution” for the migrants on board the ship.

The ship, which is operated by French charities Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee, rescued 84 people in several operations off the coast of Libya in the past three days and is currently between Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa. 

A man and a 23-year-old heavily pregnant Nigerian woman were airlifted to Malta on Wednesday night. The young woman gave birth to a baby boy in Malta this morning.

“We have not been informed of any solution yet, and have not been assigned a port of disembarkation for the Ocean Viking,” SOS Mediterranee spokeswoman Sophie Rahal told the Star.  

“We would be very relieved if a co-ordinated solution was found between EU member states to allow for a swift disembarkation of the 82 people rescued at sea, among them remain a pregnant woman and a one-year-old child,” she said.

Meanwhile, the European Union agreed to extend its anti-human trafficking mission, known as Operation Sophia, for a further six months today but not to redeploy its migrant search and rescue ships. 

Under pressure from Conte’s previous coalition with Matteo Salvini’s far-right League Party, the bloc cancelled its search and rescue missions, causing several civil society organisations to fill in the gap.

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