By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Hundreds of migrants fleeing war, persecution, and poverty are stuck at rescue ships in the Mediterranean as European nations refuse them entry.
A vessel funded by British street artist Banksy already issued urgent appeals for help, saying it is stranded in the Mediterranean and overloaded with migrants who it has been unable to bring ashore.
The Louise Michel, named after a French feminist anarchist, began operating last week. It is trying to find a safe port for the 219 migrants it picked up off the coast of Libya since Thursday.
"We are reaching a state of emergency. We need immediate assistance," it said in one message on social networking site Twitter. The 10-member crew added they were carrying a body bag containing the corpse of one migrant who had died.
They stressed the situation was worsening after failing in vain for help from authorities in Italy, Malta, and Germany.
Separately, the group running the German-flagged charity boat Sea-Watch 4 said it has been waiting for days now to disembark 201 rescued migrants.
Many were rescued within 48 hours of international waters near Libya in recent days. They include nearly 100 passengers in an overcrowded and unseaworthy dinghy. "We need you to calm down, we need you to calm down," said a rescue worker as he tried to approach the people in the small rubber boat. "Otherwise, we can't help, calm down,” he added in the video footage seen by Worthy News.
More than a dozen frightened women and dozens of men and children were taken from the dingy. They later received medical care on board Sea-Watch 4. Among those rescued also unaccompanied minors.
Yet these migrants are among the lucky ones. The United Nations estimates that at least 443 people have died or gone missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe this year alone.
The Sea-Watch group said its ship also rescued migrants from other vessels, including 27 people more than three long weeks ago.
Their rescue operations began after another boat carrying dozens of migrants bound for Europe capsized near Libya. They also received migrants from a smaller privately funded rescue boat, the Louise Michel.
Sea-Watch said it was waiting for a port off Malta. Disembarking rescued migrants in Italy has become particularly politically sensitive during the pandemic.
This month, the governor of Sicily closed all migrant centers on the Italian island, saying they had become too crowded to guarantee social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some rescued migrants in Italy have also tested positive for COVID-19, though it remains unclear how many were hospitalized. On Thursday, an administrative court in Sicily ruled that the governor's order be stayed for now, pending an outcome of an expected challenge by Italy's central government.
But even if migrants finally make it into the European Union, their future remains uncertain. Further away, authorities in fiercely anti-migration Hungary has detained a human smuggler who tried to bring 24 refugees packed in a truck to wealthier Austria.
Despite the uncertainty, many migrants continue to risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean, searching for what they believe will be a better life than the hardship faced at home.
Copyright 1999-2020 Worthy News. All rights reserved.
If you are interested in articles produced by Worthy News, please check out our FREE sydication service available to churches or online Christian ministries. To find out more, visit Worthy Plugins.