After conducting a rescue mission on Saturday and spending Sunday assessing the area, the Open Arms vessel, with EMERGENCY personnel on board, has just completed another rescue operation of two other boats in distress in the Maltese SAR zone. There are now 219 people on board, 56 of them minors, with 17 of them under 10 years of age.
During today’s first operation, 61 men and 23 minors were recovered, including a ten-year-old unaccompanied child. In the second, 74 men, five women – two of whom are pregnant – and 18 minors, including a one-year-old child, were brought on board.
At the moment, the Open Arms is the only humanitarian ship present in the Mediterranean Sea. During the day and yesterday night we received various reports of boats in distress by Pilotes Volountaires, Colibrì, and Alarm Phone. However once we reached the coordinates that were indicated, we were unable to track down the boats in distress as they had been intercepted by Libyan patrol vessels in the area. Open Arms and EMERGENCY heard via radio of a transfer of survivors made by a Liberian-flagged ship to a Libyan patrol boat, which was coordinated by Malta. According to the IOM, approximately 1,000 people have been brought back to Libya over the past 48 hours.
Open Arms and EMERGENCY have repeatedly requested a safe harbour in Malta, which was denied. We now await a response from Italy. “We are worried about this silence. It is clear that the youngest children cannot just stay on the deck of the ship, and we certainly do not want them to have to suffer more than they already have before they can be disembarked in a safe place,” the organisations declare.