Tunisia, Italy and Malta, refuse to welcome 40 migrants stranded at sea for several days

A Tunisian boat from a gas company, which has picked up some 40 migrants on board, is stuck off the Tunisian coast. Neither Tunisia, nor Italy, nor Malta, accept to open their ports to the survivors. InfoMigrants was able to get in touch with a member of the crew.

“We are stuck in the open sea off Tunisia […] We are exhausted”. The editor of InfoMigrants received on Tuesday, July 17 a call for help on his Facebook account.

The message comes from Landry, a survivor currently stranded at sea off the Tunisian coast. With about 40 other migrants, it is not allowed to land on land. Tunisia, Italy, and Malta have refused to welcome them on their soil.

The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES), a Tunisian association that helps migrants in particular, confirmed this information. “Tunisia refuses to welcome these migrants stranded at sea because it does not want to eventually become a ‘safe port’ reference for European states,” said one of its members. Since the closure of Italian and Maltese ports to humanitarian ships, other countries around the Mediterranean Sea (France, Tunisia, Morocco…) fear to become a landing zone and face a massive influx of migrants.

A gas company to rescue migrants

Back to events. Last week, a boat of 40 migrants from Egypt, Mali, Nigeria, Bangladesh, left from Libya to try to reach Europe. After five days at sea “without eating or drinking”, the migrants who drift with their engine out, are approaching a huge gas platform off the Tunisian coast.

Employees of the Tunisian company Miskar who manages the platform spot the boat. One of the company’s supply vessels, the “Sarost 5”, comes to his aid.

This is where things get complicated.

The crew of “Sarost 5” which is not a humanitarian boat, then contacts the Tunisian authorities to ask for help. While initially accepting their arrival at the port of Sfax, Tunisia changes its mind and refuses to open its ports to migrants, says the FTDES. The “Sarost 5” then contacted Malta and Italy, who also categorically refused.

Without solutions, the boat company Miskar decides to surrender without authorization from the authorities to the port of Zarzis (south of the country). “We arrived in the night from Sunday 15 to Monday 16 July at 2 am,” says Karim, a crew member contacted by InfoMigrants. But Tunis refuses again to let the boat dock. Driven back, the “Sarost 5” is obliged to moor on the open sea, a few nautical miles away.

A pregnant woman on board

Since the rescue, the crew members, without outside help, have to share their meals with the migrants on board. “We have with us a wounded and a pregnant woman of six months […] As long as a solution will not be found, we are doomed to stay at sea with them”,

Doctors came to listen on Tuesday, July 17. According to the FTDES, food should have arrived but the “Sarost 5” has for now received nothing. “Our food rations will soon be exhausted,” warns Karim. “We only have two days of food and 30 packs of 6 bottles of water.”

“We are left to ourselves: we hardly eat, for lack of supplies,” adds Landry, one of the survivors. “We sleep on planks on the floor, we do not need any toilets: no soap, no toothbrush… The crew members do everything to help us but they are also exhausted”

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