• Sunday, Jun 07, 2020
  • Last Update : 02:22 am

Desperate migrants leap off charity ship near Italy

  • Published at 09:08 pm August 20th, 2019
Migrants swim after jumping off the Spanish rescue ship Open Arms, close to the Italian shore in Lampedusa, Italy August 20, 2019 Reuters

On Tuesday, 10 of the 98 migrants on board threw themselves in the water to try and swim to Lampedusa, just a stone's throw away

Ten migrants rescued by a charity ship leapt into the water on Tuesday to try and swim to the nearby Italian island of Lampedusa in desperation after days stuck on board.

The NGO Proactiva Open Arms that owns the ship warned the situation was "out of control" as Spain announced it would make a new attempt to resolve a standoff between the vessel and Italy, which refuses them port access.

The Open Arms ship has been stuck off Lampedusa for days seeking permission to dock, with the situation increasingly tense as migrants, many of whom have been on board for 19 days since their rescue off Libya, grow desperate.

On Tuesday, 10 of the 98 migrants on board threw themselves in the water to try and swim to Lampedusa, just a stone's throw away.

First, one man leapt overboard, according to a tweet by the NGO Proactiva Open Arms that owns the ship.

"It's possible he was disembarked (in Lampedusa) but we don't have official confirmation," an NGO spokeswoman told AFP.

Several hours later, "nine people threw themselves in the water in a desperate bid to reach the coast of Lampedusa," the NGO tweeted.

"The situation is out of control."

All nine - some of them without life jackets - were eventually pulled out of the water and were "on board the boat of the Italian coastguards," the spokeswoman said.

Faced with Italy's protracted refusal to allow the migrants to disembark, Spain eventually offered up its southern port of Algeciras, which the NGO said could "not be achieved" due to the distance and tensions on board.

The Spanish government then offered up Mallorca in the Balearic Islands, nearer but still at around 1,000km from Lampedusa.

The charity described this offer as "totally incomprehensible" and continued to demand the ship be allowed to dock in Lampedusa.

On Tuesday, Spain's Defence Minister Margarita Robles said Madrid would make a new proposal "in the coming hours" to solve this "humanitarian emergency," without elaborating.

She railed against Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has been blocking access to the Open Arms.

She said Salvini "has shown he doesn't care about human lives."

For his part, Salvini tweeted that "being firm is the only way to stop Italy from becoming Europe's refugee camp again."

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