Wales

Sea Watch: Mediterranean migrant rescue mission 'fight not over'

Aerial photo of a boat in the sea Image copyright Robin Jenkins / Twitter
Image caption Robin Jenkins said this was the moment "32 terrified people" were rescued

Thirty-two migrants who have been stuck at sea with nowhere to dock for two weeks need to be treated with dignity, a Welsh volunteer has said.

Robin Jenkins from Vale of Glamorgan has been on the Sea-Watch boat that rescued them off Malta on 22 December.

Activists claim they have been denied entry to European ports since finding them in their "unseaworthy" boat.

An Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said they were monitoring the situation closely.

Mr Jenkins said he was returning home with a "heavy heart" after a relief crew took over on Friday.

The people, including two children, a baby and three "unaccompanied minors", had fled from Libya, he said.

They were plucked from a rubber boat that was leaking fuel and had a broken down engine three days before Christmas.

'Devastated'

The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said it remained concerned for the migrants, including 17 others rescued from a second boat on 29 December.

Mr Jenkins, originally from Llantwit Major, who helped in the rescue, said they were desperate to leave Libya, making the perilous journey with no lifejackets and in an unsuitable vessel.

"These people would have been dead if we had not rescued them," he said.

Mr Jenkins, founder of the international rescue organisation Atlantic Pacific, said he had forged a bond with the group after two weeks at sea.

He added it had been exhausting for all concerned due to limited food and resources and "foul weather".

Image copyright Robin Jenkins
Image caption Robin Jenkins: "There must be a solution soon"

In a statement on 31 December, UNHCR special envoy Vincent Cochetel said: "Negotiations on which states will subsequently receive them must come only after they are safely ashore."

On Friday, Sea-Watch resupplied the rescue boat, relieved the crew and ferried journalists, parliamentarians and church representatives to see the conditions the stranded people were living in for themselves.

On his Facebook page, Mr Jenkins, an RNLI volunteer in London, added: "The bitter-sweet decision to refresh the crew was made to ensure that this mission remains safe and, if possible, objective.

"None of us are happy but know this needs to happen. We are devastated that a solution did not arise during our watch.

"The fight is not over and we will continue our campaign. There must be a solution soon that gives these people shelter, dignity and relief."

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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