The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has issued a statement calling on European governments to allow the ‘immediate disembarkation’ of 507 people saved by Open Arms and other NGO ships currently stranded in the Mediterranean.
‘A port of safety should be immediately provided and responsibility shared amongst States for hosting them after they have disembarked,’ read the statement.
Many on the secure ships are reportedly survivors of appalling abuses in Libya and are from refugee-producing countries. The statement read that they ‘are in need of humanitarian assistance and some have already expressed an intention to seek international protection’.
ALSO READ: Richard Gere joins migrant rescue ship, EU president calls for ‘urgent action’
‘This is a race against time,’ said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean. ‘Storms are coming and conditions are only going to get worse. To leave people who have fled war and violence in Libya on the high seas in this weather would be to inflict suffering upon suffering. They must be immediately allowed to dock, and allowed to receive much-needed humanitarian aid.’
More than 500 people who fled the violence in Libya remain stranded at sea on board the Open Arms and Ocean Viking NGO boats.
They NEED humanitarian assistance.
We’re calling on European governments to urgently come to an agreement: https://t.co/tHXkIV46bo pic.twitter.com/TLO61VKSEy
— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) August 13, 2019
151 people remain on board the Open Arms boat while 356 people more have been rescued in recent days by the Ocean Viking.
With the Catalan Open Arms ship stranded for twelve days, the NGO has stated that ‘every day is more difficult’ and criticises ‘Europe’s infamous silence’.
ALSO READ: Minister wants EU to assume responsibility for rescue ship
‘We’re expecting a big storm for Wednesday, with waves as high as 2.5 metres. We asked Italy and Malta for protection but they turned down our petition,’ said Mar Sabé, a spokesperson for the NGO who joined a 300-strong demonstration in Barcelona calling Europe and Spain for action.
ALSO READ: Amnesty calls on Spain to release migrant rescue ships