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© Hannah Wallace Bowman/MSF
12 Sep 19 12 Sep 19

"European States must take a hard look at the role they are playing in further traumatizing these people"

Erkinalp Kesikli, MSF Project Coordinator on board the Ocean Viking says...

“A nine-months pregnant woman and her husband, rescued at sea by the Ocean Viking on Sunday, have just been medically evacuated to Malta.

Initial assessments indicated that they were doing well, but the latest examination today by the MSF midwife and medical team on board indicated that the mother has developed a serious medical complication which could put her and the baby at risk.

While patrolling international waters, 80 nautical miles south of Lampedusa, the Ocean Viking contacted the closest maritime authorities to request an immediate medical evacuation.  Maltese authorities later responded allowing the family to be safely evacuated.

For most people it is probably unthinkable that a heavily pregnant woman or a family with children might make the decision to risk their lives at sea rather than remaining in Libya. But amongst the patients seen so far by the MSF medics on board, many show scars of physical violence, including gunshot and stab wounds.

They tell our medics their skin was burned with melted plastic and they were beaten with wooden or metal sticks. These are just the physical injuries. There are even more horrific stories of abuse and exploitation that have left many with psychological wounds or trauma.

82 rescued people remain on board the Ocean Viking, waiting for a safe port to be designated to bring their ordeal at sea to an end.

The Ocean Viking has now escalated the request for a place of safety to the Italian and Maltese authorities after the Libyan Rescue Coordination Centre suggested we take these people back to Libya, in violation of international law.

European States must take a hard look at the role they are playing in further traumatizing these people by unnecessarily delaying their disembarkation in a place of safety, and continuing to support a system that traps them in Libya.”