NGO saves migrant, alleges that Libya left her at sea

Ms Josepha, found drifting on a deflated dinghy, being carried off the Proactiva Open Arms boat in Palma, Spain, last Saturday.
Ms Josepha, found drifting on a deflated dinghy, being carried off the Proactiva Open Arms boat in Palma, Spain, last Saturday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PALMA (Spain) • Two vessels of a Spanish non-governmental organisation involved in rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean have arrived in the Spanish port of Palma, carrying a woman found drifting on a deflated dinghy off Libya as well as the bodies of a boy and another woman.

The two ships of Proactiva Open Arms were escorted to the port of the capital of the Balearic island of Majorca by a Spanish police ship last Saturday.

The rescued woman is a 40-year-old from Cameroon named Josepha. Proactiva said it transported her to Spain - where the Spanish Red Cross received her - for her "protection" and to enable her to testify freely.

Italy had earlier offered to take in the woman but not the bodies, telling the Spaniards that the Libyan coast guard was in charge of the rescue operation.

Proactiva accuses Libyan coast guards of having saved the rest of the migrants on board the dinghy but not the two women and the child, whom they say refused to board the rescue vessel and go back to Libya.

The NGO alleges that as a result, the coast guards left them and deflated the dinghy. Rescuers let air out of migrants' boats to stop them from being re-used and this boat had been slashed with a knife.

Proactive Open Arms' director Oscar Camps, who said Ms Josepha remained in a state of shock, said the NGO was appalled at the logistical difficulties facing rescuers.

"We are indignant, we once again condemn the policies being followed in the central Mediterranean, not just by one government but by several. The difficulties we have faced to save one life are just incredible," Mr Camps told a news conference.

Libyan coast guards had earlier denied Proactiva's accusations and said they rescued 165 migrants from a boat in the same area last Monday night, without leaving anyone on board. They also blamed a lack of resources, particularly for night operations.

At the Proactiva press conference, basketball star Marc Gasol, who took part in the rescue operation, also urged a better response.

"Everybody is urging a response in order to know what happened," Mr Gasol said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2018, with the headline 'NGO saves migrant, alleges that Libya left her at sea'. Print Edition | Subscribe