The SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charities have relaunched migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, seven months after they suspended efforts using their ship Aquarius citing “sustained attacks on search and rescue by European states.”
“We view the return to search and rescue as a duty, fuelled by the humanitarian need to prevent people from drowning while they seek safety from Libya,” the organisations said Sunday in a press release. “The new ship Ocean Viking will sail to the Central Mediterranean Sea at the end of the month.”
NGO-operated rescue ships have run into conflict with the Italian government recently, as Rome’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini earlier this month sought to stop vessels with migrants on board from docking at Italian ports. The incident also led to tensions between Italy and Germany.
Germany’s development minister Gerd Müller has urged the EU to launch its own missions to rescue migrants both in the Mediterranean and “on Libyan soil.”
SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders said that “at least 426 men, women and children have died” since the beginning of this year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. They accused European politicians of “knowingly turning a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis” in Libya and the Mediterranean.