The civilian rescue vessel Sea Watch 3, which was detained in Italy on Friday, is the latest of such boats to stop operations in the central Mediterranean. Now, only the Libyan Coast Guard is able to save migrants risking their lives at sea in an attempt to reach Europe from North Africa.
The main non-government organizations rescuing migrants off the coast of Libya stopped their efforts in mid-2017, mainly because of increased threats from the Libyan Coast Guard. The news agency AFP compiled this update on migrant rescue organizations and their activities:
The Maltese aid group MOAS, which was the first to carry out migrant rescue operations in 2014 and had deployed two vessels, transferred its activities to helping the Rohingya in Bangladesh in September 2017.
At about the same time, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) ended its operations with the Vos Prudence, the biggest private boat deployed off Libya with a record 1,500 people rescued at the same time.
Save the Children ended its search and rescue operations with the Vos Hestia in October 2017.
In August 2017, Italian authorities impounded the Juventa, operated by small German aid group Jugend Rettet, after it was accused of helping Libyan human traffickers. Jugend Rettet has denied the charge.
The Lifeline rescue vessel, operated by a German aid group of the same name, was impounded on arrival in Valletta, Malta, in June 2018, for alleged registration issues.
The aid groups SOS Mediterranee and MSF stopped search and rescue operations with the Aquarius in December 2018 after it was stuck in a French port for two months following the revocation of its registration.
In January 2019, Spanish authorities refused to allow the Open Arms ship to leave Barcelona harbor. In early 2018 the boat, operated by the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, was impounded for a month by Italy. It was then forced to take rescued migrants to Spain several times after Malta and Italy refused to allow them to disembark.
The Sea Eye charity from Germany had several vessels impounded during 2018 but deployed another ship, the Professor Albrecht Penck, in December, rescuing 12 migrants. The boat is currently in Majorca and plans to set sail again in around two weeks, according to AFP.
SOS Mediterranee has said it is looking for another boat and flag so it can continue search and rescue operations.
In Italy a collective of associations launched the Mediterranea, flying an Italian flag, mainly to witness the situation for migrants off Libya.
There are also two light aircraft which overfly the Mediterranean trying to identify and locate boats in trouble: the Colibri operated by French aid group Pilotes Volontaires, and the Moonbird operated by Sea Watch.