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Unrest among migrants on rescue ship stranded off Italian coast

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Unrest among migrants on rescue ship stranded off Italian coast
Migrants rescued from the Mediterranean have little space on board the Open Arms ship. File photo: AFP
17:08 CEST+02:00
There are fears of violence breaking out among traumatised and anxious migrants on board a rescue ship as Italy, Spain, and Malta refuse entry to their ports.
Fights may break out at any moment among migrants stranded on a rescue ship off the coast of Italy, the founder of the charity which operates the boat warned on Wednesday.
 
 
"We could have a fight within a half-hour with a serious injury, or worse, someone could die on board due to violence," Proactiva Open Arms founder Oscar Camps told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser.

"It would be a tragedy, it would be unforgivable."

The 19 crew members on the Open Arms, which is sailing off the coast of Italy's southern Lampedusa island with 147 migrants who were plucked from boats in the Mediterranean this month, are finding it harder to contain tensions on board, he added.

Many of the migrants, mainly from Africa, are suffering from "very high levels of post-traumatic stress" and anxiety over their future.

They must share just two bathrooms and a living space of only 180 square metres (2,000 square feet), Camps said.

"There are arguments over a spot in the shade, over a spot in the sun, arguments over food, arguments over the queue to use the bathroom," he said.

Oscar Camps, founder of Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms. Photo: AFP

Weather conditions, which have worsened in recent days with high waves, have increased tensions since many passengers suffer from seasickness and are vomiting, Camps said.

"You have to remember that they suffered torture, violence, abuse of all types, slavery" on their way to Europe, he added.

Some migrants have started hunger strikes and Proactiva Open Arms has had to send in a team of psychologists and cultural mediators to try to restore order among the passengers who are from about a dozen different countries, Camps said.

"They have been on board for a long time... they can't call their loved ones to tell them they are alive, there are fathers, children. They have absolutely no idea what will happen, this generates a lot of anxiety."

Two babies were evacuated by helicopter from the ship to Malta on Wednesday for health reasons, Camps said.

Both Malta and Italy have refused permission for the boat to dock and unload all the migrants.

Spain on Tuesday dismissed a request from the ship's captain to take in the 31 minors on board the Open Arms, arguing that he did not have the legal authority to make an asylum request for them.

READ ALSO: Italian coastguard staff break silence to express concern over migrant policy

 
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Debbie7 - 17 Aug 2019 13:01
Frankly NGOs are acting criminally in trafficking migrants across the Mediterranean. Any refugee policy should be enacted by national governments, not by boats crewed by fanatics collecting migrants and delivering them to ports in other countries. These problems have been created by the "charities" involved and the crew and captains should be tried and jailed. This is people trafficking and money is being made out of it by many.
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