More migrants jump from rescue ship off Italian island

Published August 20, 2019, 6:30 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By the Associated Press

MILAN — More migrants jumped off the Spanish humanitarian rescue ship Open Arms Tuesday in a desperate bid to reach shore, tantalizingly near after 19 days blocked onboard in deteriorating conditions amid Italy’s refusal to open its ports.

A woman is assisted following a panic attack onboard the Open Arms vessel in front of island of Lampedusa, southern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. The Spanish humanitarian rescue ship Open Arms says another man had to be rescued after jumping in the sea as the stand-off with Italy, which won't permit it access to a port, entered its 19th day. Open Arms described the situation on board Tuesday as ''desperate,'' saying that a man threw himself in the water trying to reach trying to reach land in plain view, while at the same moment a woman suffered a panic attack. (AP Photo/Francisco Gentico)
A woman is assisted following a panic attack onboard the Open Arms vessel in front of island of Lampedusa, southern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. The Spanish humanitarian rescue ship Open Arms says another man had to be rescued after jumping in the sea as the stand-off with Italy, which won’t permit it access to a port, entered its 19th day. (AP Photo/Francisco Gentico / MANILA BULLETIN)

Open Arms described the situation on board as “out of control” and “desperate.” After one migrant jumped ship earlier in the day and was rescued by the Italian coast guard, nine more launched themselves into the sea wearing orange life vests.

A reporter with the Spanish public broadcaster TVE reporting from the NGO boat said that the earlier jumper refused to return to the Open Arms ship, and was brought to the Italian island of Lampedusa instead, apparently triggering the reaction of the nine who followed his lead. The reporter said that those jumping were “desperate and going mad” after 19 days trapped on board.

Open Arms said that both the Italian coast guard and its own crew were trying to rescue the additional nine.

Live video showed people wearing life vests floating in the sea, some in groups some individually, with a coast guard vessel nearby and rubber dinghies trying to reach them.

The Open Arms captain previously informed Italian authorities that the crew of 17 can no longer control the situation on board, as frustrated migrants resort to fighting.

Italy’s hard-line interior minister has refused port access to the ship, even though six other European countries have agreed to take the passengers.

 
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