356 rescued people onboard the Ocean Viking finally allowed to disembark in Malta

SOS MEDITERRANEE: “European States and their civil societies cannot allow such standoffs to happen again”

Following a 14-day standoff, 356 people rescued by SOS MEDITERRANEE two weeks ago are finally disembarking from the Ocean Viking, a rescue vessel operated by SOS MEDITERRANEE in partnership with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). They will be transferred to Maltese Armed Forces vessels and disembarked in Malta, following an agreement to relocate the people between six European Union member states (Ireland, Portugal, France, Romania, Germany and Luxembourg).

“SOS MEDITERRANEE is relieved a European solution was finally found for the 356 rescued people on board the Ocean Viking. Fourteen months after the first standoff experienced by our previous ship, the Aquarius, we regret that no European predictable mechanism was implemented to prevent the unnecessary prolonged suffering of vulnerable people in the high seas so far. The role Malta, other Member States and the European Commission have had  in leading this disembarkation into a place of safety shows cooperation is possible to avoid unnecessary standoffs in the central Mediterranean. We hope that the ad hoc solution implemented today will transform into the predictable and sustainable disembarkation mechanism promised many times by several European Union Member States”, says Frédéric Penard, SOS MEDITERRANEE’s Director of Operations.

“This 14-day standoff of the Ocean Viking was dreadful. European States and their civil societies cannot allow this situation to happen again. SOS MEDITERRANEE and MSF will go back at sea as soon as possible: as long as people will be left in distress in the Mediterranean Sea and as long as States will not take on more responsibilities, civil society and seafarers will be at sea to try and prevent people fleeing Libya from drowning”, adds Frédéric Penard.

The Ocean Viking will now change crews, refuel and resupply the ship before heading back to the Libyan Search and Rescue region as soon as possible.

International press contact:
Laura Garel (Marseille, France)


©Photo credit : Hannah Wallace Bowman/MSF