A Spanish charity appealed for help late Wednesday after its ship carrying 121 migrants was turned away by Italy and Malta, and a second nongovernmental organization (NGO) vessel said the authorities in Valetta had also refused to allow it to refuel in its waters. A time slot had been set for refueling the vessel in Maltese territorial waters on Wednesday and confirmed by a mediator, the spokeswoman said. But the Maltese maritime authorities then radioed in that they had received no authorization.
Launched by SOS Mediterranée and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the Ocean Viking set off from the French port of Marseille on Sunday and was set to arrive off the coast of Libya by the end of the week. With the a holding capacity of around 200 people, it is currently the largest rescue vessel in the Mediterranean. It also has four high-speed rescue boats as well as a medical clinic onboard.
The NGO's previous vessel, the Aquarius, in December was forced to cease operations after two years due to pressure from Italy, where the right-wing government has taken a hard line on migrants arriving by boat.