From file: The crew of the Geo Barents rescued 71 migrants off a sinking dinghy in the Central Mediterranean | Photo: MSF_Sea on Twitter
From file: The crew of the Geo Barents rescued 71 migrants off a sinking dinghy in the Central Mediterranean | Photo: MSF_Sea on Twitter

Three NGO rescue ships – the Geo Barents, the Ocean Viking and the Sea-Watch 3 – are currently waiting in the Central Mediterranean for a port to disembark the over 1,400 migrants they have rescued over the past week.

The latest rescue took place on Wednesday (July 27), when the crew of the Geo Barents took more than 300 people on board in two rescue operations. "100 people, including 44 minors, have just been rescued from a wooden boat in distress," Doctors Without Borders, which operates the Geo Barents, announced on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.

A few hours later, the humanitarian workers on board spotted another wooden boat, this one carrying 232 people. "After this 9th operation, 596 survivors are currently on board of our vessel," MSF tweeted. According to MSF, the nine rescues took place within roughly 60 hours.

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More than 1,400 migrants waiting for safe port

These latest rescues bring the number of rescued migrants on board the Geo Barents, the Ocean Viking and the Sea-Watch 3 in the Central Mediterranean to 1,421.

Following three rescues on Sunday and two on Monday (July 25), the Ocean Viking currently has 387 people on board, among them over 100 minors. In one of the two rescues on Monday, the crew of the Ocean Viking rescued 80 people off Libya from an overcrowded, partially deflated rubber boat. Many of the rescuees were exhausted and emotionally distressed, SOS Mediterranee said on its Twitter account.

The third civilian rescue vessel in the Central Mediterranean with rescued migrants on board, the Sea-Watch 3, carries 438 people, one of whom had to be evacuated on Wednesday for medical reasons. "For 4 days, 128 minors have been exposed to the heat & sun on the #SeaWatch3, 116 of them unaccompanied," Sea-Watch tweeted on Wednesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Sea-Watch 3 again requested a port to disembark the survivors, news agency EPD reported. The minors, most of them unaccompanied, needed urgent help, Sea-Watch said.

Deadly Mediterranean

The Central Mediterranean route from northern Africa to Europe is among the most important and at the same time deadliest migration routes in the world. In early April, some 90 people are believed to have died in the Mediterranean. The estimated death toll in the Central Mediterranean Sea currently stands at 875 for 2022.

Last year, more than 1,500 people drowned there while trying to reach European shores. A state-run sea rescue mission doesn't exist in the Mediterranean. Instead, NGO vessels like the Ocean Viking conduct search-and-rescue (SAR) missions to save migrants in distress. It often takes several days or longer until Italian authorities assign the vessel a port. Fellow EU member state Malta hasn't given permission to disembark rescued migrants for a long time.

Unless an NGO vessel finds them first, migrants trying to escape from Libya to Europe are usually intercepted and returned by Libyan authorities to Libya, where they face torture, abuse and death.

In late June, UN investigators reaffirmed previous reports about migrants and refugees detained in Libya facing serious abuse, with women especially facing sexual violence. The report highlighted how females are forced to submit to rape in exchange for food. It also mentioned the discovery of "dozens" of mass graves with migrants' bodies.

with EPD

 

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