Ninety-four migrants, desperate to go to Italy, are refusing to leave a container ship in Libya, a week after they were rescued from drowning at sea, a Libyan coastguard official said on Wednesday.
Col. Tawfik Amohammed, a Regional Coastguard Chief, said that the ship had rescued the 94 people from a sinking boat off Libya’s western city of Misrata on Thursday.
The vessel, coming from Italy, was bound for Misrata to unload a shipment of cars when the Libyan coastguard requested it pick up the migrants because the area was too distant for the coastguard to reach quickly.
“When we asked the migrants to get off the ship, they refused and demanded it take them to Italy,” the official said.
He added that later some of them were willing to disembark, but were prevented by others.
“Negotiations are under way with the migrants that may result in allowing those, who want to leave to do so,” the official said.
Rights and medical groups are providing assistance to the migrants on board the ship, now docking at the Misrata port.
The migrants, mostly Africans, include a child and a woman, the official added.
In recent months, the Libyan coastguard has reported intercepting various boats carrying hundreds of migrants headed for Europe via the Mediterranean.
The North African country is a gateway to Europe for people fleeing war, persecution and poverty in their homelands.