The rescue ship SOS Mediterranee said that there is an increasing trend towards delays, confusion among the authorities and those responsible for the rescues
A group of migrants detained at sea for more than a day because of bureaucratic problems were so afraid they would turn them over to the Libyan coast guard who was about to jump into the water because they “preferred to die”, supported an aid group.
The rescue vessel SOS Mediterranee Aquarius docked in the Sicilian port of Catania on Thursday with 105 migrants on board. They had been rescued by a British sailboat on Sunday, but they were left at sea when Italy insisted that Great Britain approve their transfer to the Aquarius, a larger ship. London said it was not in charge of the rescue, and finally, Italy approved the transfer.
SOS Mediterranee communications chief Matthew Carter said the rescue was revealing of “an increasing tendency towards delays, confusion among the authorities and who is in charge of coordinating rescues and transfers.”
Some of the migrants, forced to remain on the deck of the sailboat during the incident, suffered from sunstroke and an 11-year-old boy vomited blood, Carter said.
It was the second time in two months that Italy delayed the arrival of migrants rescued to the mainland by insisting on bureaucratic formalities related to the flag of the rescue ships. It seems to be a tactic by Italians to dissuade aid groups from operating in the Mediterranean and that Libyans take charge of migrants.
The Italian coast guard says that international laws oblige flag countries of vessels to request formal authorization to dock and unload, but Italy had not demanded that requirement before beginning to give logistical and financial support to Libyans.
Aloys Vimard, the coordinator of the Médecins Sans Frontières group aboard the Aquarius, said the threat to return to Libya terrified migrants, many of whom had suffered “high levels of violence, torture and rape.”
”At some point, the Libyan coast guard patrolled nearby, and (the migrants) were very scared. They were about to jump into the water because they tell us that they would rather die than return to Libya”