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More than 800 refugees on two rescue ships waiting for authorities to allow them to come ashore

MORE than 800 refugees onboard two civilian-run rescue ships in the central Mediterranean urgently need to come ashore, their rescuers said today — but the European authorities have so far ignored their calls.

The Ocean Viking, now carrying 553 survivors, and the Sea-Watch 3, with 257 more, began a series of rescues in waters off Libya and Malta last Friday with next to no help from the coastguards.

In one dramatic five-hour rescue late on Saturday the ships saved 400 people travelling in one wooden boat from drowning.

Without the help of the authorities, who instead aided the Libyan coastguard to return hundreds of people back to their war-torn country, the ships were reliant on fellow refugee support groups ResQship and Alarm Phone to locate and save those in distress.

Alarm Phone warned on Monday that another 500 people in four boats in Malta’s search-and-rescue zone were in serious danger.

Unable to bring any more people aboard, the Sea-Watch 3’s crew spent most of the day beside one of the unseaworthy wooden boats carrying about 90 people. The Italian coastguard finally came to their aid in the evening.

Elsewhere, ResQship’s small monitoring vessel the Nadir came to the aid of about 180 people on Monday afternoon who had spent the past three days adrift in a wooden boat.

Two refugees were in need of urgent medical care, one of them having been resuscitated by the Nadir’s paramedic, ResQship said on Monday. The Maltese authorities finally arrived on scene during the night and took the 180 to shore.

Sea-Watch 3 head of mission Anne Decker said: “Not only have we been left alone by the authorities during several rescues, waiting for hours for them to respond to our urgent calls for assistance, but even after seven requests, we have still not received an allocation of a port of safety.

“Our guests on board have the right to disembark in a safe place, and with the situation on board deteriorating by the minute, this must happen now without further delay.”

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