The cruise ship Marella Discovery rescued 111 migrants, including 33 children, off Greece on Saturday.
Deutsche Welle reports that the migrant boat was found in distress about 40 nautical miles off Greece's Peloponnese peninsula. The migrants were taken to the Greek port of Kalamata, and the Greek Coast Guard arrested two of the boat's operators.
Meanwhile, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) announced on Sunday that it would resume lifesaving search and rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean, condemning what it says is criminal inaction of European governments. The return to sea comes after a sustained two-year campaign by E.U. governments to stop virtually all humanitarian action at sea, and the normalization of vindictive policies that have caused deaths at sea and suffering in conflict-ridden Libya, says MSF.
Operating in partnership with SOS MEDITERRANEE, a new ship Ocean Viking will sail to the Central Mediterranean Sea at the end of the month.
“Politicians would have you believe that the deaths of hundreds of people at sea, and the suffering of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya, are the acceptable price of attempts to control migration,” said Sam Turner, MSF Head of Mission for Search and Rescue and Libya. “The cold reality is that while they herald the end of the so-called European migration crisis, they are knowingly turning a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis these policies perpetuate in Libya and at sea. These deaths and suffering are preventable, and as long as it continues, we refuse to sit idle,” Turner said.
Fighting has raged around Libya’s capital Tripoli for over three months, displacing over 100,000 people and trapping refugees and migrants in detention centers. Exposed to the conflict, those locked up and unable to flee are fearing for their lives as successive attacks have left around 60 people dead. Humanitarian evacuations out of the country remain piecemeal and inadequate, leaving the potentially deadly crossing across the sea as one of the only possible escape routes.
European governments are violating the very legal obligations and humanitarian principles they signed up to by increasingly supporting the Libyan Coastguard to forcibly return vulnerable people back to Libya, says MSF. In some cases, they are being returned to the same detention centers where people trapped inside are shot at or subject to airstrikes, as witnessed in the most recent example of Tajoura detention center.
Already this year, at least 426 men, women and children have died attempting the crossing, 82 of them in one shipwreck alone just over two weeks ago. Additionally, says MSF, commercial ships are in an untenable position, stuck between the duty to rescue and the risk to be stranded at sea for weeks due to the closure of Italian ports and the inability of E.U. States to agree on a disembarkation mechanism.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 26,090 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea up to June 19 this year, roughly a 35 percent decrease from the 40,846 arriving during the same period last year. Arrivals to Spain and Greece account for 82 percent of all irregular arrivals this year across three Mediterranean Sea routes, with the balance arriving in much smaller proportions to Italy, Malta and Cyprus.