Published: Wed, August 21, 2019
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Humanitarian group says stranded migrants are jumping into sea in desperation

Humanitarian group says stranded migrants are jumping into sea in desperation

On Sunday, four migrants on board the Open Arms rescue vessel jumped offboard in a desperate bid to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The European Commission ought to take legal action against Italy for not allowing the disembarkation of Spanish rescue ship Open Arms and for "breaking the law", Spanish deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo has said.

That was after one migrant jumped off the ship early on Tuesday and was rescued by the Italian coast guard, followed by two groups of nine and five more who launched themselves into the sea wearing orange life vests.

The Spanish government says it is dispatching a naval ship to Italian waters to escort back a humanitarian group's boat with 83 migrants on board in deteriorating conditions.

Italy offered to transfer the migrants on coastguard units to take them to Spain.

The Open Arms ship, run by a Spanish charity of the same name, has been stranded at sea for the past 19 days, with the charity saying that the migrants are distressed and urgently need to find shelter.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte announced last week that six nations - Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, Romania and Luxembourg - had offered to take the migrants aboard Open Arms.

In a statement, Madrid said the Audaz vessel will be dispatched at 5pm on Tuesday (11pm Singapore time) to accompany the Open Arms aid vessel to the Spanish island of Mallorca, adding that it sees the move as "the most appropriate option in resolving the humanitarian emergency".

Italian populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini reacted with fury to the NGO's rejection of the Spanish offer saying, "The Spanish NGO refuses the port offered by Spain!"

A charity vessel carrying 107 rescued migrants criticised Monday a proposal that it unload its passengers in Spain's Balearic Islands, some 1,000 kilometres from its current location off the coast of Italy where it has been stuck in limbo for days.

Open Arms' director and founder, Oscar Camps, confirmed the boat would dock in Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost island, between Sicily and Tunisia.

But the charity calls the situation a desperate one and warns that some migrants are suicidal.

Toninelli said other European countries were turning their backs on Italy "and there is one person responsible: Matteo Salvini, who has weakened the government and as a effect our position in Europe".

The NGO's spokeswoman, Laura Lanuza, said she heard from Open Arms crew members that "those who remain aboard are threatening with jumping as well".

Some of the migrants have disembarked the ship and were taken to Lampedusa, including 27 migrants claiming to be underage, although eight have already been proved to be adults according to Il Giornale.

The charity described this offer as "totally incomprehensible" and continued to demand the ship be allowed to dock in Lampedusa.

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