More migrants jump from rescue ship off Italian island

Published: Updated:

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 on board in deteriorating conditions by Italy’s refusal to open its ports.

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 the Italian coast guard managed to rescue all nine of the later group, but it was not immediately clear if they would also be taken to land.

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.

Open Arms confirmed that the first man who jumped, a Syrian national, was brought to Lampedusa. The group described the situation on board as “desperate,” saying that a man threw himself into the water, trying to reach land that was in plain view, while at the same moment a woman suffered a panic attack.

The NGO’s spokeswoman, Laura Lanuza, said she heard from Open Arms crew members that “those who remain aboard are threatening with jumping as well.”

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.