MSF doctor: People rescued at sea are petrified they will be taken back to Libya

MSF medical activities on board

Mediterranean Sea 2019 © Hannah Wallace Bowman/MSF

AUGUST 22, 2019—Luca Pigozzi, a medical doctor with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on the search and rescue ship, the Ocean Viking, in the central Mediterranean, gave the following statement today:

"It's been now 13 days that 356 vulnerable people are stranded onboard the Ocean Viking. Every day we see the situation deteriorate. There are people on board with medical conditions that could turn critical in an instant and could require an evacuation.

"In almost two weeks, I have seen victims of sexual violence and treated people who suffered brutal beatings, electrocution, torture including by melting plastic, and also war-related wounds. A third of my patients are children under the age of 18. They all have experienced nightmarish journeys before they have been rescued.

"As each day passes I can see a rapid and concerning deterioration in people's mental state. They are petrified they will be taken back to Libya where they have been exposed to horrendous abuses and arbitrary detention.


People rescued in the Mediterranean need a place of safety

"Many had attempted to flee Libya more times but have been intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard—which is supported by the European Union—and forced back to detention. Some are survivors of shipwrecks or bombings. They all deserve safety. As a doctor, I cannot accept their unnecessary, drawn-out suffering.

"Why are ethics and humanity taken hostage by politicians who voluntarily leave them stranded at sea, depriving them again of their basic rights and dignity?

"How much more trauma will European leaders impose on these people until a humane solution is found? What must happen before they react?

"There must be an urgent intervention now. I implore European states to find their humanity and put an end to this disgrace. All 356 people on board must be allowed to disembark in a place of safety now."