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NGO asks France, Spain, Greece to help 234 Mediterranean migrants

Migrant rescue group SOS Mediterranee said Thursday that it had called on the governments of France, Greece and Spain to help find a port for 234 people rescued while trying to reach Europe, after Italy and Malta failed to respond.

The NGO, whose Ocean Viking vessel responds to migrants in distress in the Mediterranean, said it was the first time it had pleaded for direct help from the three countries.

“We’re not asking France to open a port, but to help us find a solution,” SOS Med director Sophie Beau told AFP, saying the ship was currently south of Sicily.

Since embarking on its latest mission on October 22, the group asked Malta and Libya, the country from which most migrants hoping to reach Europe from Africa depart, to allow them into port, since they were the nearest countries to the rescue sites.

Beau said neither had responded even as weather conditions worsen, with high winds, strong waves and lower temperatures forecast for coming days.

The ship then requested aid from Italy, whose new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has vowed to stop migrants from crossing to Europe from Africa.

As of Thursday, it had no official response, but the group said that it was facing “a complete blockage in high sea and an implicit ban from entering” Italian ports.

A ship operated by the SOS Humanity nongovernmental organisation is also stranded with hundreds of migrants onboard, SOS Med said.

“This is the first time we’ve appealed” to France, Greece and Spain for assistance in finding a port for rescued migrants, Beau said, adding that so far none had responded.

Since the beginning of this year, 1,765 migrants have died or gone missing in the central Mediterranean, making it the most perilous migrant route in the world, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration.