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THE UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) urged European governments today to allow the 507 rescued migrants stranded on two NGO ships in the Mediterranean to disembark as storms head towards their positions.
The Spanish NGO Open Arms has 151 migrants on board and has been at sea for 12 days.
The Ocean Viking, operated by the French charities Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee, has saved the lives of 356 migrants in four days. The ship left the search and rescue zone this afternoon and is now seeking a safe port.
UPDATE: with 356 vulnerable men, women and children currently on board, the #OceanViking operated jointly by #MSF and @SOSMedIntl is now leaving the Libyan #SAR zone, expecting to be assigned a place of safety that meets the requirements of international law. pic.twitter.com/79VMYs4SaX
— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) August 13, 2019
“This is a race against time,” said UNHCR special envoy for the central Mediterranean Vincent Cochetel today.
“Storms are coming and conditions are only going to get worse.
"To leave people who have fled war and violence in Libya on the high seas in this weather would be to inflict suffering upon suffering. They must be immediately allowed to dock, and allowed to receive much-needed humanitarian aid.”
“Don’t forget, we live in sea, not in land. Danger to our life. Please give fast answer”
Le 151 persone abandonate nel Mediterraneo da 11 giorni mandano un messaggio all'Europa.
E domani arriva il mal tempo.
Vergogna. #unportosicurosubiti pic.twitter.com/2Z38Y69bSJ
— Open Arms IT (@openarms_it) August 12, 2019
UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley said the Open Arms and Ocean Viking “must be allowed to dock their rescued passengers immediately.”
“Many European leaders expressed their shock after Tajoura and last month’s shipwreck,” Mr Yaxley said, referring to the Libyan migrant detention centre which was bombed in July and the 150 people suspected to have drowned later that same month.
“But words of solidarity are not enough. Expressions of condolence are no substitute for providing access to territory and asylum procedures!
“Nearly 600 people have died or gone missing on the central Mediterranean in 2019. These deaths were preventable. And more lives would have been unnecessarily lost if not for the work of NGO boats.
“They should be supported, not criminalised nor stigmatised.”
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