247 people rescued from the Mediterranean by the Ocean Viking have landed in Italy, after spending days at sea. Another 129 migrants were rescued by the Sea-Watch 4.
Dozens of unaccompanied minors were among the 247 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean by the private humanitarian ship, the Ocean Viking. They disembarked in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo on Saturday and Sunday (February 19 and 20) after having spent days aboard the ship, awaiting permission for a safe harbor. Some of those those on board had been seasick due to stormy seas.
As well as 53 unaccompanied minors, the rescuees included a baby who is just a few months old, according to SOS Mediterranee, which runs the Ocean Viking. Aid workers from the International Federation of the Red Cross who helped to look after the migrants on board the ship said last week that some were suffering from fuel inhalation and burns and a number showed signs of torture.
The crew of the Ocean Viking had picked up the migrants during five separate rescues. The first took place in the Maltese search-and-rescue zone on February 12, when 93 people were rescued at night from an overcrowded wooden boat. Over the next 48 hours, more than 150 people were rescued in waters between Libya and Malta. SOS Mediterranee said the migrants had attempted to make the crossing because they had "no other option."
Sea-Watch 4 rescues 129
Another private rescue ship, Sea-Watch 4, rescued 129 people in two operations on Saturday. The first small boat in distress was spotted early in the morning – 121 people were rescued. The same evening, another boat with eight people in danger of imminent drowning was sighted by the Sea-Watch aircraft and all were rescued, the organization said on Twitter. The vessel had started its latest rescue mission off the Libyan coast on Friday.
No official sea rescue
Despite the large numbers of migrants attempting the risky Mediterranean crossing, there is currently no official coordinated sea rescue operation in the Mediterranean. Several boats run by non-governmental aid organizations are active, including Geo Barents, operated by the medical charity MSF, and the Spanish-run rescue ship Aita Mari.
The Central Mediterranean crossing remains deadly. The UN migration agency, IOM, recorded more than 2,000 people missing or dead on the route during 2021, and at least 151 since the beginning of this year. The real number of deaths is believed to be much greater, with many going unrecorded.
The Mediterranean has claimed more than 23,490 lives since 2014, the IOM says.
With dpa, epd