From file: The Ocean Viking search and rescue (SAR) vessel seen on December 21, 2020 | ANSA/SOSMediterranee
From file: The Ocean Viking search and rescue (SAR) vessel seen on December 21, 2020 | ANSA/SOSMediterranee

All 122 migrants on board the charity ship Ocean Viking safely disembarked on the Italian island of Sicily over the weekend. Meanwhile, another migrant rescue vessel, the Geo Barents, is still waiting for a port of safety for 60 rescued passengers and its crew.

On Saturday (September 25), the Ocean Viking migrant rescue ship docked in the Italian port town of Augusta on the eastern coast of Sicily with 122 migrants on board. By the early afternoon, all passengers had disembarked the ship, according to charity SOS Mediterranee, which operates the Ocean Viking.

Between Saturday (September 18) and early Monday (September 20) morning, the crew of the search and rescue (SAR) vessel had picked up 129 women, men and children in "4 operations in less than 36 hours" off the coast of Libya, SOS Mediterranee tweeted on Saturday.

The migrants were tested for COVID-19 by Italian authorities aboard the Ocean Viking before they were allowed to leave the ship, the organization said in an update on its website.

Both on September 20 and September 23, the Italian coast guard evacuated one of the rescuees along with their family members from the Ocean Viking due to health reasons. On September 24, as the Ocean Viking was already on its way to Sicily, its crew spotted a boat in distress with 26 passengers and "provided assistance before an Italian patrol vessel completed the rescue."

The Ocean Viking had started its latest rescue mission in the central Mediterranean on September 13.

Geo Barents still waiting for safe port

Meanwhile, fellow migrant rescue ship Geo Barents is still waiting for the green light to disembark the 60 migrants it rescued on September 20 in two operations. Six of the rescuees were women, 21 were unaccompanied minors, and the youngest child was a 6-week-old baby.

In early August, the Geo Barents was released from the Sicilian port of Augusta after the Italian coast guard had impounded it in July, citing technical irregularities.

At present, the central Mediterranean route is one of the busiest -- and deadliest -- migration routes in the world. According to UN migration agency IOM, at least 1,392 have perished trying to reach Europe from northern Africa so far this year. The actual number of deaths is estimated to be a lot higher.

With dpa, EPD


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