October 28, 2019 / 6:24 PM / a month ago

Rescue ship with 104 migrants on board seeks help from EU nations

PARIS (Reuters) - An NGO which runs the Mediterranean rescue ship Ocean Viking, with 104 migrants onboard, called on European authorities on Monday to designate a safe disembarkation spot.

French association SOS Mediterranean, along with Doctors without Borders (MSF), said among those aboard the ship are two pregnant women and 41 children younger than 18.

“Their anxiety is growing”, said Jay Berger, MSF’s project coordinator aboard the Ocean Viking. “They’re unsure of what’s going to happen to them next.”

On Oct. 18, the Ocean Viking picked up 104 people aboard an inflatable boat in distress 50 nautical miles off the Libyan coast. Libyan authorities say they assigned the port of Tripoli as a safe disembarkation site for the refugees, a statement subsequently refuted by SOS Mediterranee.

Italian and Maltan authorities have not yet replied to requests by the group to allow the ship to dock.

Migrants attempting to reach Europe in recent years have mainly been fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Dozens have also been killed trying to make the Mediterranean crossing.

Confirmed deaths on the three main Mediterranean migratory routes in the first nine months of the year were 994, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The number is the lowest recorded since 2014. It is not because of an improvement in safety conditions but rather a reduction in the number of people attempting to cross, the IOM said.

Interior ministers from five European Union countries said last month they had agreed on a new plan to distribute migrants saved from the Mediterranean under a deal aimed at relieving the pressure on southern EU states.

Reporting by Ardee Napolitano; Editing by Maya Nikolaeva and Dan Grebler

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