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Migrant Rescues in the Mediterranean Sea to Resume in August

August 9, 2020, 08.06 PM

PARIS, – Humanitarian organizations will resume migrant rescues in the Mediterranean Sea this month after months of forcefully seizing operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The last operation was in early July using the Ocean Viking vessel that is currently docked in Italy, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Sea-Watch on Thursday.

Before the Ocean Viking’s last mission, migrant rescues in the Mediterranean had been suspended as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged globally.

Read also: EU Relocates Asylum Seekers to Germany and Finland

Announcing they will join forces, the French and German groups said they will deploy rescuers on a new ship, dubbed the Sea-Watch 4, currently docked in Spain.

Sea-Watch will provide the crew, and MSF the medical team.

"We hope to be able to depart Spain around the 10th to mid-August," MSF humanitarian affairs adviser Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui told AFP.

The mission was "essential", she said, as "currently, there is no NGO ship at sea" even as migrants escaping poverty and conflict continue attempts to cross the hazardous waters.

More than 100,000 migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean last year from north Africa with more than 1,200 dying in the attempt, according to the International Organization for Migration.

'Leaving people to drown'

After several weeks at sea, the Ocean Viking, chartered by charity group SOS Mediterranee, docked in Sicily on July 7 with 180 migrants on board.

It was then detained and immobilized over what Italy's coastguard said were "technical and operational irregularities" in a move NGOs said amounted to harassment.

The Ocean Viking had resumed rescue operations on June 22 after a three-month halt because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In April, MSF and SOS Mediterranee abandoned a four-year collaboration that had rescued thousands of migrants due to a disagreement over how to proceed amid the coronavirus.

The MSF's new partner, Sea-Watch, made headlines last year when Italy arrested Carola Rackete, the German captain of the Sea-Watch 3, for forcibly docking on the island of Lampedusa with dozens of migrants on board despite being refused permission.


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