The Mediterranean Sea is currently without NGO-operated migrant-rescue vessels with the Aquarius in Marseilles, the Open Arms bound for Spain and three other boats stranded in Malta.
Libyan coast guard cutters are the only boats currently operating off Libya, between Zuwara and Garabulli until Homs.
NGO-operated vessels that have patrolled the search-and-rescue (SAR) area over the past few months are currently far away. Two boats of Catalan association Proactiva Open Arms, the Open Arms and the Astral, were the last to leave the area.
Vessels bound for Barcelona
The first, which on June 30 rescued 59 migrants, is navigating towards Barcelona after Malta and Italy said they would not allow it to offload the migrants on board. The Astral, with four European MPs, is also traveling to Barcelona and is currently north of Lampedusa. ''Sixty people are alive - tweeted founder Oscar Camps - thanks to a group of volunteers, the solidarity of thousands of people and in spite of many official obstacles''.
Aquarius prepares for new journey
Outside the SAR zone the Aquarius, the boat operated by Sos Mediterranee in cooperation with Doctors Without Borders, reached Marseille after a long journey that took it to Valencia with 630 migrants, then back to Libyan SAR waters and then to France after Malta closed its ports to the boat, which needed to refuel.
But the NGO operating the boat said it will not stop its activity.''With European states that are obstinate in making political considerations prevail over human lives, the Aquarius is preparing to go out to sea as soon as possible'', said the NGO. The boat could leave as soon as Wednesday.
Three humanitarian vessels are meanwhile stranded in Malta: the Seefuchs, Sea Watch 3, operated by NGOs Sea Eye and Sea Watch, and Lifeline. The latter, operated by a German NGO, with over 200 migrants on board, was granted access to Valletta after eight days and a Europe-wide controversy. Its commander, Carl Peter Reisch, is under investigation for disregarding the orders of the Italian coast guard and for alleged irregularities of the ship.