Franco-German aid group SOS Mediterranee and its partner organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have called upon the European governments to designate a place where the Aquarius vessel can dock and safely disembark the 141 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean.
Aquarius, which is jointly operated by SOS Mediterranee and MSF, rescued 141 people in two different operations off the coast of Libya on Friday 10 August.
In one of the operations, the vessel rescued 25 people found adrift on a small wooden boat with no engine on-board. The people were believed to have spent around 35 hours at sea.
As part of its next operation on Friday, Aquarius rescued a total of 116 people, including 67 unaccompanied minors, from an overcrowded wooden boat.
Following the rescue, the Libyan Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC), which was the coordinating authority of both the operations, asked Aquarius to look for a different place to dock.
According to Aquarius, it informed the authorities in Italy, Malta, and Tunisia, about the rescue operations, but did not receive any assistance when it came to docking the vessel.
SOS Mediterranee Search and Rescue coordinator Nick Romaniuk said: “We are now following the instructions of the JRCC and will duly contact other RCCs for a place of safety to disembark the rescued people we have on-board.
“What is of utmost importance is that the survivors are brought to a place of safety without delay, where their basic needs can be met and where they can be protected from abuse.”
SOS Mediterranee also alleged that before being rescued by Aquarius, the rescued migrants were ignored by five other ships sailing in the region.
MSF project coordinator on-board Aquarius Aloys Vimard said: “European governments have put all their efforts into propping up the Libyan JRCC, however, Friday’s events show that they do not have the capacity to fully coordinate a rescue.
“A rescue is not complete until there is disembarkation in a place of safety. The Libyan JRCC clearly told us they would not provide this.
“Additionally, they did not inform Aquarius of boats in distress, which they were aware of, despite the fact we were in the vicinity and offered our assistance. It was extremely fortunate that we spotted these boats in distress ourselves.”
SOS Mediterranee and MSF also expressed concern about European policies that obstruct the humanitarian efforts and have resulted in a growing number of deaths at sea in recent months.