Another rescue operation in Mediterranean, new EU intervention needed

Photo: EPA US actor Richard Gere (C) speaks to the media on the Italian island of Lampedusa on 10 August after he visited the Spanish humanitarian ship Open Arms.

French charities SOS Mediterranean and MSF rescued another 81 migrants off the coast of Libya on Sunday, who joined 130 others aboard the ship the Ocean Viking, an AFP reporter said. The ship has been patrolling international waters some 50 nautical miles off the coast of Tripoli. About two-thirds of migrants aboard are Sudanese.

Sunday's rescue was the third in as many days. The ship Open Arms, operated in the same area by Spanish charity Proactiva, counts 160 migrants, of whom 121 have been aboard for 10 days while waiting for EU states to take them in. Italy and Malta have denied the ship entry.

The rescues come at a time of tension between Italy and other EU states, with the Italian government refusing to let migrants land on its shores unless its EU partners help take them in. The Ocean Viking is registered in Norway, and Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini sent a warning to Oslo last week. "Italy is not legally bound, nor disposed to take in clandestine, unidentified migrants from on board the Ocean Viking," Salvini wrote.

Open Arms founder Oscar Camps on Sunday made a new appeal for European solidarity, tweeting: "Tenth day on board, on a scorching Sunday in August. We have 160 reasons to carry on, 160 human beings who have the right to disembark at a safe port. Shame on you, Europe."Nine of the migrants rescued by Open Arms were allowed to disembark on Sunday, eight of them flown by helicopter to Malta and one to the southernmost Italian island of Lampedusa.

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