Middle East

The Latest: Ocean Viking asks Italy, Malta for a safe harbor

ROME (AP) — The latest on migrants trying to enter Europe (all times local):

11:50 p.m.

Two charity groups operating the Ocean Viking rescue ship have formally asked Italy and Malta to allow the 356 migrants aboard to disembark in their ports.

After four consecutive days of search and rescue operations in the central Mediterranean, Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee asked Maltese and Italian authorities for “support in finding a place of safety.” The two groups say the migrants show “signs of physical and psychological violence experienced during their journey through Libya.”

The NGOs reiterated they won’t return survivors to Libya because that country’s ports are not safe.

The migrants were plucked from the Mediterranean days ago, but both Italy and Malta have denied access to their ports.

An additional 151 migrants are on another charity ship also looking for a place to dock.


5:50 p.m.

A Spanish aid group says it has asked Italy and Malta to evacuate twin babies and their parents from a rescue ship that has 151 migrants on board and nowhere to disembark them.

Aid group Open Arms said Tuesday that one of the 9-month-old babies has breathing problems.

Italy and Malta have refused to receive the humanitarian ship, which has been seeking authorization to dock for well over a week.

Also Tuesday, a juvenile court in Sicily ruled that Italian authorities violated national law and international conventions by blocking 28 unaccompanied minors from entering Italy.

Open Arms made the court ruling available and says the children are suffering “physical and mental distress” after enduring “psychological traumas” in Libyan detention camps.


2 p.m.

A senior Spanish official says an asylum request on behalf of 31 migrant minors made by the captain of an aid group’s ship that rescued them at sea carries no legal weight.

The minors, many from Eritrea, are among 151 people on the Open Arms rescue ship which is still seeking permission to disembark in a European port 13 days after it first rescued a group of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Spanish caretaker government’s Public Works Minister, Jose Abalos, says Tuesday that Captain Marc Reig does not have the legal authority to request asylum for the minors.

Reig sent a letter Monday to the Spanish embassy in nearby Malta asking Madrid to grant the minors asylum.


1:45 p.m.

The United Nations refugee agency is calling on European governments to urgently allow in more than 500 people rescued in the Mediterranean but who remain stranded at sea as countries bicker over who should take them.

UNHCR special envoy Vincent Cochetel said Tuesday that “this is a race against time.” He says “storms are coming and conditions are only going to get worse.”

The migrants are aboard two ships chartered by humanitarian aid groups, but Italy’s anti-migrant government is denying them access to its ports.

The UNHCR says nearly 600 people have died or gone missing in waters between Libya and Italy this year.

The European Commission says it’s urging member countries to take action and is offering support, but has no power to intervene.

A spokeswoman says “there’s nothing more we can do.”


11:30 a.m.

More than 500 rescued migrants are stuck in the Mediterranean on two NGO boats, as Italy and Malta continue to deny them access to their ports.

French charity group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said late Monday in a tweet that it had completed “a critical rescue” of another 105 people onto the Ocean Viking, raising the total number of migrants on board ship to 356.

Another 150 migrants remain on board the Spanish charity vessel, the Open Arms.

Italy’s hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, reiterated Tuesday his intent on making sure the two migrant ships don’t enter Italian ports.


This story has been corrected to show that not all migrants on the Ocean Viking were rescued 13 days ago.

Photo: In this photo taken Saturday and released Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, a rescue team of the Ocean Viking ship, operated by the NGOs Sos Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders, helps a person rescued from a rubber dinghy with over 80 migrants off the Libyan coast. The Ocean Viking was already carrying over 80 people rescued earlier, and is blocked at sea while it waits to be assigned a safe port. Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has triggered a government crisis in Italy, signed Friday a ban on the ship’s entry into Italian waters. (Hannah Wallace Bowman/MSF/Sos Mediterranee via AP)

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