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Stranded Ocean Viking migrants to arrive in Sicily port on Monday

The Ocean Viking aid ship has been granted authorisation from Italian authorities to disembark 180 rescued migrants, according to SOS Méditerranée.

“The ship has finally received instructions to proceed to Porto Empedocle, Sicily. The 180 survivors will be disembarked in the port tomorrow,” the French NGO tweeted on Sunday.

“The unnecessary delay of this disembarkation has put lives at risk,” it added.

Earlier reports suggested those on board would be transferred onto another ship, the Moby Zaza, and placed in quarantine.

SOS Méditerranée rescued the migrants between June 25 and 30.

There are 25 children and a pregnant woman among them.

The NGO reported that Italian authorities were conducting tests for coronavirus earlier on Sunday.

The Italian government sent a doctor on the ship on Saturday after the NGO reported episodes of severe unrest, including suicide attempts and threats to the ship’s crew, prompting demands for the immediate evacuation of 44 people due to “acute psychological distress”.

The doctor excluded any mental condition, but acknowledged that the migrants were “tired, stressed and nervous”. At the same time, he urged them to stop being “aggressive” in order to facilitate the disembarking operations.

“It only depends on you! Do not create a problem, do not fight, respect the crew, they saved you, and it will go quickly”, he said, according to news agency AFP.

“We know that it is long, but the coronavirus slows things down in Italy so be patient, ” he told the migrants, before being applauded as he left the ship.

“They believe him more because he represents Italy”, Anne, doctor of the SOS Méditerranée, said, adding however that the situation needs to evolve quickly because “the ‘placebo effect’ will not last long”.

“What is needed is to dock now,” operations manager on board Nicholas Romaniuk stated, “and you have to do it before there is a death.”

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