The humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee has rescued a total of 572 migrants and refugees in Maltese and Libyan waters in recent days. Their vessel Ocean Viking is now looking for a port to disembark the rescuees, as further boats continue to depart from North Africa.
Hundreds of migrants are crammed together on the rescue ship Ocean Viking, which has saved 369 people in five overnight operations, adding to over 200 people who already were on board from previous rescues that have been underway since last week Thursday (July 1).
The vessel is now full and looking for a harbor to dock and disembark. Ensuring COVID protocols for such a large group of rescuees could, however, prove to be difficult.
The migrants reportedly come from various countries, and before last night’s rescue they had identified that people from Egypt, Gambia, Libya, South Sudan, Syria and Tunisia were among those rescued, said SOS Mediterranee -- the NGO which operates the vessel. It is likely that after last night’s operations, further nationalities will be on that list.
Non-stop emergency in the Mediterranean
Before the weekend, the ship had responded to rescue calls in waters near Malta, picking up 71 migrants who were stuck in an overloaded wooden boat that had embarked from Libya three days earlier, SOS Mediterranee said. The group of migrants had used up reserves of food and water at the time, and four people "had to be evacuated on stretchers," the group added.
On Sunday, the rescue operations focused on Libyan waters with 369 people being saved. One of the unseaworthy boats was reportedly at risk of capsizing the entire time during the intense operation.
Since the start of the year, at least 886 migrants have died in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, according to figures by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
SOS Mediterranee says it has rescued more than 30,000 people in the Mediterranean Sea since February 2016. During the recent spring and summer months alone, the charity has saved the lives of hundreds of people.