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80 migrants rescued as Hollywood star Gere shines light on plight

August 11, 2019

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Migrants stand on an inflatable boat during the second rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday.—AFP
Migrants stand on an inflatable boat during the second rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday.—AFP

ON VIKING: More than 80 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean on Saturday as Hollywood star Richard Gere highlighted the plight of those stranded after boarding a charity ship.

The migrants, mainly Sudanese men and adolescents, were picked up by the Ocean Viking ship from a rubber dinghy off the coast of Libya, according to Doctors without Borders (MSF), which operates the vessel along with the French charity SOS Mediterranee.

The rescue operation comes as a dispute escalates over who will take in migrants rescued by another charity ship, with mild Mediterranean weather increasing the number of people trying to make their way to Europe from Africa.

Malta said it would take in 39 migrants picked up by the Open Arms ship in the country’s rescue zone the day before, but refused entry to 121 others who have been on board the ship for nine days.

However Spanish charity Proactiva, which operates the ship, rejected the offer, insisting Malta also take the 121 migrants, including 30 children.

Proactiva founder Oscar Camps said the decision not to take in all the migrants “caused a serious security problem on board” the Open Arms. “The anxiety levels of these people is unbearable,” he tweeted.

Malta said the 121 migrants “were intercepted in an area where Malta is neither responsible nor the competent coordinating authority”.

American movie star Gere boarded the Open Arms on Friday aiming to keep a spotlight on the situation for migrants as they wait for European nations to agree to take them in. “Most people refer to them as migrants, but for me they are refugees that are running from a fire,” Gere told a press conference on the Italian island of Lampedusa on Saturday.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2019