New suicide attempt among migrants stranded near European shores

Published 10.09.2019 00:17

A 17-year-old Tunisian migrant stuck on a rescue ship being denied port entry by Malta has tried to jump overboard in the latest suicide attempt among migrants left stranded on rescue ships near European shores. The Alan Kurdi, a ship run by the Sea-Eye nongovernmental organization (NGO), is stuck about 35 kilometers south of Malta, with eight people who have been on board since Aug. 31. "One of the minors grabbed a life jacket and tried to leave the ship," Sea-Eye spokesman Gorden Isler told German news service dpa.

On Twitter, he described the incident as a "suicide attempt." In a message to Maltese authorities, the Alan Kurdi said the minor showed signs of "anorexia, increasing mental instability, depression and aggression."

After the German charity Sea-Eye, which operates the vessel, made a public plea for help to Maltese authorities, Malta evacuated three more people yesterday morning from the Alan Kurdi. It was the third time in a week that Malta has evacuated people from the ship, which has been stuck about 35 kilometers south of Malta with no permission to enter port. Just five of the 13 people rescued by the Alan Kurdi now remain on board.

Italy and Malta have repeatedly turned away migrant rescue vessels in the past few months. In the case of the Alan Kurdi, Malta has suggested that migrants should instead be returned to Tunisia.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, 50 migrants, including 12 minors and a pregnant woman, were rescued in the central Mediterranean by the Ocean Viking rescue ship. The migrants were picked up "from a boat in distress in [international] waters off the coast of Libya and the rescue took nearly three hours to complete," MSF Sea wrote on Twitter. MSF Sea is a branch of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) medical charity, which operates the Ocean Viking together with the Franco-German charity SOS Méditerranée.

Due to the lack of a common response to migration inflows from northern Africa via the Mediterranean, migrants have been facing the same unwelcoming approach from EU countries. So far, every standoff about migrants rescued from the Mediterranean takes weeks to resolve, revealing the limits of EU tolerance and its inherent deficiencies in promptly resolving dire situations. Instead, they get caught up in intra-EU struggles on what to do with migrants saved at sea, while effectively dashing their European dreams.

Since June 2018, when Italy started turning away NGO rescue ships, migrants saved at sea have repeatedly been trapped in intra-EU disputes about where they should be allowed to land. Italy, as one the front line countries, continues to protest the lack of support from the EU in facing migratory inflows via the Mediterranean. In June, eight of the 28 EU countries, including France and Germany, signaled clear intentions of moving forward with a new system called a "solidarity mechanism." However, they have failed to persuade Italy to allow rescue ships to dock at its ports.

Amid a divided response to the Mediterranean migrant rescue crisis, EU countries have long failed to create a more permanent EU redistribution arrangement to prevent migrant tragedies at sea. The Mediterranean Sea continues to be a deadly route, as six people died every day while attempting to reach European shores in 2018. In its report "Desperate Journeys," the U.N. refugee agency said, "An estimated 2,275 people died or went missing crossing the Mediterranean in 2018, despite a major drop in the number of arrivals reaching European shores." The death rate among migrants crossing the sea from Libya to Italy or Malta more than doubled last year as naval search and rescue missions were reduced.

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