Brawls, suicide attempts, physical threats to the crew … The tension has become such, on board the Ocean Viking, that the humanitarian ship, which has received 180 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea since June 25, declared on Friday July 3 in “state of emergency”.
180 survivors on board the SOS Mediterranean ship
After two men threw themselves overboard the day before, Friday 3 July began with a suicide attempt by hanging, followed by a fight involving several of the migrants rescued by the SOS Mediterranean ship in four separate operations, June 25 and 30.
Since, “The situation on board has deteriorated to the point that the safety of the 180 survivors and the crew can no longer be guaranteed”, explained SOS Mediterranean, which charters the ambulance boat. Of the 180 survivors rescued for ten days by the crew, there are 25 minors, 17 of whom are unaccompanied. One of the two women on board is five months pregnant.
After having suspended its action for three months due to the coronavirus epidemic, the Ocean Viking left the port of Marseille on June 22 to resume its rescue operations at sea.
Since Thursday, July 2, several fights have broken out, mainly between ethnic groups, and six suicide attempts have been recorded. The bridge, according to the AFP journalist Shahzad Abdul | present on board, is divided into several groups: a majority of migrants, around 130, who wait in peace while waiting to be able to reach the shores of Europe after having fled Libya; and an agitated minority, for which SOS Mediterranean has requested medical evacuation on the grounds of “Acute psychological distress”, or 44 Tunisians, Moroccans and Egyptians.
And between these two groups, the NGO team, in an orange jumpsuit, which had to double its workforce on deck for safety reasons.
Since Friday, July 3, the crew has been targeted by these threats, sometimes of death. Blocked for more than a week at sea, some migrants have developed paranoia, explains SOS Mediterranean. They believe that the NGO is in league with the Italian authorities, and would earn a little more money every day if it kept them on board.
“I don’t feel safe, we have to find a port now, it’s a question of security”, explains Ludovic, one of the lifeguards. A feeling shared by the entire crew.
It’s been a week since the ship Ocean Viking made its first request to allocate a port to disembark people on board, but after seven requests to the Italian and Maltese authorities, the boat of the NGO SOS Mediterranean received a response negative from both countries. Saturday, July 4, the Ocean Viking went to position off Sicily. Pending a signal to dock and disembark his survivors.