Nearly 800 Migrants Aboard NGO ‘Taxi’ Ships Awaiting European Port Access

The NGO SOS Mediteranee's rescue ship "Ocean Viking" is docked in Marseille
NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images

Around 800 migrants aboard three different NGO migrant “taxi” transports are currently awaiting European port access after being picked up in the Mediterranean Sea.

An estimated 788 migrants are reported to be aboard the three vessels belonging to three NGOs, with 458 aboard the Geo Barents, which is operated by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières), 216 aboard Sea-Eye’s Sea-Eye-4, and 114 on SOS Mediterranee’s ship Ocean Viking.

The NGOs have been waiting for several days to be granted port access by Italy, with Sea-Eye stating earlier in the week that a small number of migrants have already been taken into care by Italian authorities due to their poor health.

“Some of them have been at sea for a week. The EU doesn’t even remember its values at Christmas time,” the NGO alleged, claiming that “many adults and children are sick, injured and suffering tremendously. Why are you making these people wait?”

NGO migrant transports seldom if ever take migrants to African ports much closer to where they pick their passengers up than Europe.

The situation with the NGOs comes as migrants continue to land in boats on the small Italian island of Lampedusa, with 340 people arriving within a 24-hour period on Thursday.

The migrants on the boats are said to mainly originate from Africa, although some Bangladeshi nationals have also been identified among them.

Until last week, Lampedusa had seen a brief pause in migrant landings but, within a 48-hour period, around 500 migrants inundated the island, which is located between Tunisia and the larger Italian island of Sicily. At least one migrant, a woman who had travelled with her 14-year-old son, was found dead aboard one of the boats.

The activities of migrant taxi NGOs, which have dropped off thousands of migrants in Italy this year, have been criticised by many politicians in Italy, as well as abroad.

French presidential candidate and leader of the populist National Rally (RN) party Marine Le Pen linked the NGO activity to people-trafficking and modern slavery earlier this year.

“The trafficking of human beings organised by smugglers in the Mediterranean and encouraged under the guise of misguided humanism by NGOs funded by the European Union is part of this modern slavery,” Ms Le Pen declared.

“Slavery, as it was practised, was recognised as a crime against humanity. Its modern form and the resulting economic human trafficking is an abomination,” she added.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.