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Rescue boat with 180 migrants in state of emergency: charity

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Rome (AFP)

Humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee said Friday its rescue boat carrying 180 migrants was in crisis and needed to disembark immediately as conditions had deteriorated and violence erupted on board.

The charity group said it had called a state of emergency on board, saying the safety of the migrants and crew could no longer be guaranteed.

The boat, which is in limbo in the Mediterranean off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, has been waiting for over a week for permission from Italy or Malta to offload the migrants at one of their ports.

Tensions have risen in the past week, as witnessed by an AFP reporter aboard the boat, as migrants have become increasingly desperate to reach land.

"After seven requests for a Place of Safety to the relevant maritime authorities within the past week and six suicide attempts by survivors within 24 hours, the Ocean Viking has declared a State of Emergency..." SOS Mediterranee said in a statement.

The group said that a migrant had tried to hang himself early on Friday, while others "are showing signs of extreme mental fatigue, depression and acute agitation which has erupted into several physical fights among the survivors on deck," it said.

Two migrants had begun a hunger strike, it said.

On Thursday, two migrants threw themselves in to the Mediterranean, but were rescued.

The charity group said that it had received a negative response from Italy and Malta after its first request for a port, and no replies to its six subsequent requests.

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