Red Cross staff to join migrant rescue boat in Mediterranean

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Food is being distributed to migrants aboard the Ocean Viking rescue, in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday, July 8, 2021. A charity rescue ship with 572 migrants aboard is pleading for permission to dock in the Mediterranean as food runs short. Luisa Albera, an official of the  humanitarian group SOS MEDITERRANEE, launched an urgent appeal on Thursday for the passengers on the Ocean Viking. (Flavio Gasperini/SOS Mediterranee via AP)

ROME (AP) — A France-based migrant rescue organization soon will be getting medical and other assistance aboard its charity ship in the Mediterranean.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, known as IFRC, said Monday that its teams will go aboard the Ocean Viking rescue ship starting in August in the central Mediterranean Sea.

That’s an area heavily used by traffickers based in Libya who launch unseaworthy boats crowded with migrants toward Italy’s southern shores. Rescue ships often host the migrants aboard for days until Italy or Malta grants permission to dock and disembark the passengers.

The Geneva-based organization will be providing first aid and other medical care, psychological support, dry clothes and blankets as well as food to rescued migrants aboard the ship operated by the charity SOS Mediterranee.

“Lives continue to be needlessly lost in the Mediterranean Sea, particularly on the long and treacherous Central Mediterranean route between Libya and Europe,” the two humanitarian organizations said in a joint statement. They noted that 792 people are known to have died on that route while trying to reach Europe in the first six months of this year, three times as many as in the same period in 2020.

“We are proud to start this new mission, but we also call on the EU and its member states to urgently increase search and rescue operations,” IFRC President Francesco Rocca said in the statement.

The Italian and Maltese governments have appealed to other nations in the European Union to take in some of the tens of thousands of rescued migrants in recent years, since many of them hope to reach northern Europe to find jobs or relatives there.

Many of the migrants are denied asylum because they are fleeing poverty and not war, other conflict or persecution. But for the large part, the appeals by Italy and Malta to their EU partners have gone unheeded.

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