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Rescued migrants suffer as standoff over rescue boat continues

23 Aug 2019

There are concerns about the medical and psychological condition of people rescued from the Mediterranean Sea and stranded onboard a rescue boat that has been anchored off the Italian island of Lampedusa for more than 18 days while the Italian government refuses permission to disembark.

Despite a court ruling that allowed the Spanish-flagged Open Arms charity search-and-rescue boat to enter Italian waters, only some of the original 140 passengers have been allowed to disembark on health or age grounds. Sanitary and hygiene conditions are reported to be very poor for the 107 people still onboard. Some of those who were rescued have jumped overboard in a desperate attempt to swim to land; they were later rescued.

Spain and five other European Union countries have offered to take the migrants, but the rescue boat lacks the resources to navigate further. In the English Channel, where smaller numbers of migrants and refugees have been trying to reach Britain in dinghies and small boats, the British authorities intercepted more than 60 people in four separate boats off the English coast on 22 August, and the French authorities picked up 30 people from two dinghies.

More than 900 people, including at least 80 children, are reported to have crossed the Channel in small boats in 2019. Although this number is low compared with the movements across the Mediterranean into Europe, the Channel is the busiest sea lane in the world, making attempts at the sea crossing in small boats very perilous.


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