German NGO vessel Sea-Eye 4 has picked up 106 migrants in the central Mediterranean in two days. After taking over 32 people a freighter had rescued earlier, the crew rescued 74 people from a rubber dinghy after receiving several distress calls. The Sea-Eye 4 is currently waiting off Malta for a safe port.
The German non-profit aid organization Sea-Eye says it rescued 106 people in the Mediterranean on Tuesday and Wednesday (March 29-30).
The first rescue took place on Tuesday, a day after the freight ship Karina had picked up 32 migrants in international waters off the coast of Libya. According to Sea-Eye, they had spent three days at sea.
The Ukrainian captain refused to return the migrants to Libya, Sea-Eye said. Instead, the German shipping company that operates the Karina called Sea-Eye for help. The Sea-Eye 4 then took the 32 migrants on board.
Three emergencies in 24 hours
At around noon on Wednesday, the hotline Alarm Phone alerted Sea-Eye to a rubber dinghy in distress off Libya. When the Sea-Eye 4 arrived on the scene several hours later, they found the vessel with 74 people on board, among them 22 children.
Fifteen of the passengers had to be treated in the ship's hospital, Sea-Eye said. The rescuees hailed from Egypt, Nigeria, Susan, South Sudan and Syria.
Wednesday's rescue brought the number of migrants on board the Sea-Eye 4 to 106.
Later on Wednesday, Alarm Phone forwarded another distress call of a migrant boat to the Sea-Eye 4 crew. A search took place overnight but it had to be abandoned as the crew received the coordinates of another rubber dinghy with 145 people reported to be on board.
Before the Sea-Eye 4 was able to reach that boat, Libya's coast guard had intercepted and returned the group to Libya, Alarm Phone said on Twitter on Thursday.
On Friday (April 1), Alarm Phone tweeted that those returned to Libya had reported that 11 members of their group had died. InfoMigrants was unable to verify these reports.
Stranded off Malta
According to Sea-Eye chairman Gorden Isler, the Sea-Eye 4 reached the Maltese waters overnight from Thursday to Friday. As of late Friday, Isler said Maltese authorities had refused to offer a port of safety for the 106 rescued migrants. In the early afternoon on Friday, he said on Twitter that Malta was referring the Sea-Eye 4 to the German city of Bremen.
"Among those rescued are 22 unaccompanied minors," Isler told InfoMigrants. "They are especially in need of protection."
On Friday around noon, the position of the Sea-Eye 4 was some 66 kilometers southwest of Malta. The EU member state takes a strict line on migration and has not allowed privately funded rescue vessels with migrants on board into its ports for some time.
"Perhaps an unequivocal appeal by the Pope to the Maltese government can make Malta, as the closest EU state, feel responsible for 106 people seeking protection," Isler tweeted in light of Pope Francis' planned arrival on the island this weekend. According to news agency AP, Francis is to visit a migrant shelter on Sunday.
In February, the Council of Europe (CoE) called on Malta to review its cooperation with Libya, saying it's not a safe place to return migrants to. "Disagreements with other member states about disembarkation responsibilities should never be allowed to put human rights -- including the right to life -- at risk or exempt the authorities from their non-refoulement obligations," the CoE's human rights commissioner said.