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The 365 migrants aboard the ‘Ocean Viking’ expect traumatized a port to disembark

August 21, 2019

Rescue boat 'Ocean Viking' by MSF and SOS Mediterranée – HANNAH WALLACE BOWMAN / MSF

“We ask for a safe place as soon as possible so that these people can touch the ground and find security and humanity”


The 365 migrants and refugees, including 103 minors, rescued by the 'Ocean Viking' between August 9 and 12 in the Mediterranean continue to wait for a safe port to disembark, visibly traumatized, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), organization that operates the ship together with SOS Mediterranée.

Both NGOs requested on August 13 to the Maltese and Italian maritime authorities to assume the operation, after which Malta has responded negatively arguing that the rescue took place in waters that are not within its competence and Italy has not replied, MSF explained .

After recovering from dehydration, dizziness, hypothermia and burns from the fuel they presented in the first 24 hours after the rescue, migrants are being treated by MSF staff for “skin and respiratory infections, but we are also treating wounded war, “explains Luca Pigozzi, an NGO doctor aboard the 'Ocean Viking'.

However, he acknowledges that “right now, the most important emergency on board is the psychological one”. “These people have suffered and are suffering great trauma” since “many have been victims of torture and sexual violence in Libya,” says Pigozzi. “Today, while waiting for a safe place to disembark, they are consumed in a limited space in the middle of the sea where their condition can only get worse,” he laments.

On board, the notion of time is lost and most migrants are unable to understand what is happening, although the intercultural mediator who tries to facilitate the relationship between all parties involved is explained. “We ask for a safe place as soon as possible so that these people can touch the ground and find security and humanity,” Pigozzi claims.

This doctor calls for the end of “an inhuman and shameful blockade” and the landing “as soon as possible”, given that the weather aboard the 'Ocean Viking' is “increasingly tense” and many are beginning to wonder: ” Why don't we move? Will we go back to Libya? '”


“The trauma experienced by rescued people is usually not associated with a single event,” says Stephanie, head of the medical team on the ship, but “sometimes it is the result of an accumulation of situations that have been exposed since they were children. ”

“Many tell us that they grew up in areas affected by violence and conflicts and had to flee with their families. There are some who have lost their relatives and made this dangerous trip through the desert and through Libya without any company,” he says.

In the clinic on board the 'Ocean Viking' “we treat wounds and physical problems and do everything possible to provide at least psychological first aid,” he says, recognizing that “what they really need is a broader and more complete psychological support that which we can provide on board the ship. ”

“After all their experiences of insecurity and the traumatic trip from their country of origin through Libya to get on a rubber boat, any delay in allowing them to disembark in a safe harbor will expose them, again, to uncertainty and anxiety: It will make them feel that they are worthless and that they are not welcome, “warns the head of MSF.