At the time of writing, the current situation with over 550 rescued persons onboard the Ocean Viking humanitarian rescue ship operating in the central Mediterranean is dire. Over the past five days, the vessel and crew have conducted six rescues yet have still not been allocated a place of safety to disembark their passengers.
Men, women, children, as well as pregnant women remain on overcrowded decks with minimal shelter, while food provisions are running low. According to the crew onboard, four persons have already been taken off by the Italian Coastguard for medical reasons and currently another medical evacuation is underway.
Speaking with Rocco Aiello, an Italian national whose role is as one of the rigid inflatable boat (RIB) drivers onboard the Ocean Viking, the rescues have been undertaken both day and night. The most recent night rescue went ahead with RIBs in support of the SeaWatch 3 vessel, which was already on station rescuing migrants.
Rocco informed HRAS said: “The current situation is poor onboard. The decks are entirely covered with people with over 550 persons and tomorrow, food rations will become problematic.”
“The crew are exhausted with the continuous operations and it is impossible to work on deck due to overcrowding, you have to literally work on top of the people.”
Rocco went on to explain: “The weather yesterday was very bad, with water coming into the vessel. The wind was strong and the waves did not help and there are lot of people are on the open deck… we have people everywhere.”
Julia Schaefermeyer, Press officer for SOS Mediteranee is also onboard and reported to HRAS that: “We are literally seeing people’s physical and mental health deteriorating right in front of us. We have pregnant women onboard suffering from seasickness, and the nausea is leading to fluid loss. The people on deck are getting weaker and weaker, and it should be remembered that before they were rescued, they had already been at sea for three days.”
As conditions deteriorate, Julia explained the rescued persons are: “exhausted and it is becoming harder to keep people stable. Two pregnant women have now been evacuated in poor physical condition threatening their unborn children.”
It was highlighted by Rocco that there are additional stresses for the crew from the rescued persons asking when they will disembark, how they will be treated ashore, as well as their real concerns over being sent back to Libya.