Suicide attempts, fights aboard rescue boat carrying 180 migrants

ABOARD THE OCEAN VIKING IN THE MEDITERRANEAN (AFP) – After suicide attempts, fights erupting on board, and migrants jumping into the sea, charity SOS Mediterranee launched an emergency alert yesterday, demanding to be allowed to immediately disembark at a safe port.

The humanitarian group, whose vessel the Ocean Viking has been at sea for over a week with 180 migrants aboard, said it could no longer guarantee the safety of the migrants or crew and called a state of emergency in an unprecedented step.

The boat, which has been in limbo in the Mediterranean south of Sicily, has been waiting for over a week for permission from Italy or Malta to offload the migrants at a safe port.

Tensions have risen in the past week, as witnessed by an AFP reporter aboard the boat, as migrants have become increasingly desperate to reach land.

Others have become distraught not being able to telephone their families to let them know they were safe. A member of the crew, Ludovic, told AFP he had never witnessed such violence on board a rescue vessel, after a spate of fights between migrants and threats of suicide.

“I don’t feel safe,” Ludovic said. “We have to find a port now, it’s a question of safety.”

SOS Mediterranee said in a statement it was not safe to keep migrants languishing on a boat after they had “endured a near-death experience on an unseaworthy dinghy in distress.”

A man looks down as he sits on the deck of the Ocean Viking ship, in the Mediterranean Sea. PHOTO: AP