Story at a glance

  • While trying to sail from Libya to Italy, 104 migrants were stranded at sea.
  • After a harrowing journey, they were rescued by the Ocean Viking, a ship run by Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee.
  • But then they had to negotiate with European countries to determine who would take them.
  • The migrants will be relocated in Germany, France and Italy.

On October 18, 104 people were rescued almost 50 miles offshore from Libya by a ship operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee. They had survived the most harrowing part of their journey, but it took a tense 11 days for the charities to negotiate a safe place for the boat to dock and the migrants to go ashore.

At the end of October, Italy’s government authorized the ship, called the Ocean Viking, to dock in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo, Al Jazeera reports. The 104 people onboard the Ocean Viking, as well as 90 people onboard another rescue boat, will be relocated in Italy, Germany and France.

According to the United Nations, thousands of people make dangerous trips from their home countries to Libya every year. There, they board overcrowded, rickety boats and sail on the Mediterranean Sea in hopes of reaching Europe and accessing more economic opportunities. Of the group rescued by the Ocean Viking, 41 were minors and 10 were women.


"A first medical assessment showed all survivors in a stable condition. A few were weak due to the exhaustion and being exposed to the sun, with no water to drink. Many were dehydrated but have recovered," MSF said in a statement sent to Al Jazeera. "Many were quite emotional, especially mothers with children, when they came onboard and started crying out of relief that they survived." 

Al Jazeera reports the leader of Italy’s far-right League party, Matteo Salvini, criticized the decision to welcome the migrants, saying the action “encourages human traffickers to ply their trade."

The decision about where the migrants would be relocated comes after four European Union countries called for a fast-track system to find a place to relocate those stranded on boats, the Associated Press reported.

“It is unacceptable to strand people at sea, waiting days and weeks while European states debate whether and how to fulfil their humanitarian and legal obligations,” Michael Fark, the MSF head of mission for Libya and the Mediterranean, told Al Jazeera. “After days stranded at sea, and enduring horrific conditions in Libya and along their journey, finally they will be taken to safety.”

Published on Nov 08, 2019