ROME — Migrants in distress at sea tell their rescuers that several ships passed them by without offering assistance, a European aid group said Sunday while seeking safe harbor for a rescue vessel with 141 migrants aboard.
SOS Mediterranee says that due to the recent refusal of Italy and Malta to let rescue vessels carrying migrants dock, ships might be now unwilling to do rescues “due to the high risk of being stranded and denied a place of safety.”
On Friday the group’s chartered ship Aquarius, which it operates in partnership with Doctors Without Borders, rescued 141 people in waters off Libya. Of these, 25 were found adrift on a small wooden boat that had no motor and was believed to have been at sea for about 35 hours, the group said. The other 116 people, including 67 unaccompanied minors, were rescued later that day, it said.
Nearly three-quarters of those rescued originate from Somalia and Eritrea. Many migrants recounted how they were “held in inhumane conditions in Libya,” where human traffickers are based, the aid group aid.
It added that Libya’s rescue coordination authorities wouldn’t provide the Aquarius with “a place of safety” and asked it to request safe harbor from another country’s authorities.