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‘Every minute in which the authorities keep 410 rescued refugees at sea, is a minute too long’

EVERY minute in which the authorities fail to provide 410 refugees onboard a charity rescue ship with port access is a minute too long, a member of the crew told the Star today.

Geo Barents, a rescue ship run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), has been waiting for a response from the Maltese and Italian authorities to respond to their calls for a port to disembark the rescued since Saturday.

The ship carried out its first three rescues last Thursday and Friday in international waters off the coast of Libya. During the first operation, MSF said the EU-funded Libyan Coastguard attempted to intimidate and threaten the crew over the radio.

Last Friday, the ship carried out four rescue operations inside Malta’s search-and-rescue (SAR) zone, a section of the central Mediterranean in which the island nation is legally responsible under international law to co-ordinate rescues. It hasn’t done so since closing its ports to NGO rescuers last year.

MSF project co-ordinator on board the Geo Barents Barbara Deck told the Star today that the vessel “received a very clear and definitive no when asking the Maltese maritime authorities for a place of safety.

“We conducted our first rescue five-days ago and some of the survivors told us they were already at sea for several days. So, to be quite frank, any minute or hour longer is already too long,” Ms Deck said.

“I can’t guess how long we can expect to be waiting here. I hope it’s not much longer. As rescue is not considered complete until the survivors are disembarked in a place of safety. So any further delay in an allocation to a place of safety would be unacceptable.”

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