Irish nurse describes atmosphere on board migrant rescue ship turned away from Italy and Malta

The Aquarius ship after its arrival at the eastern port of Valencia, Spain, yesterday. AP Photo/Alberto Saiz

An Irish nurse helping migrants on the rescue ship the Aquarius says 'vulnerable people should not be used as pawns in a political game'.

The ship was turned away from Italy and Malta last week, before finally reaching sanctuary in Spain.

Passengers on board included unaccompanied children, pregnant mothers and torture victims.

Nurse Aoife Ní Mhurchú helped to care for hundreds of refugees on board. She says it was a reckless decision to turn them away.

"It was an anxious time for the people on board because the ship was actually stopped halfway between Malta and Italy [for] 24 hours," she said.

The people on board were very fearful that they would be returned to Libya. We even had one man who had to be briefly sedated because he was a victim of torture and he was very concerned that we were going to return him to Libya.

Ms Ní Mhurchú says politics was put before the lives of these people, some of whom were very ill.

"The majority of these were chemical burns which required wound care, regular analgesia throughout.

"Then with the deteriorating weather conditions, it was just really challenging because we had to move everybody inside the ship.

We adapted the workspace, we adapted the sleeping area, but it was quite difficult because even for people to move out to the toilet they had to climb over each other.

Digital Desk

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