A rescue operation in the Mediterranean on Sunday, December 4, carried by the crews of the ships Humanity 1 and Louise Michel in international waters off the Libyan coast | Photo: Nicole Thyssen/SOS Humanity Via AP
A rescue operation in the Mediterranean on Sunday, December 4, carried by the crews of the ships Humanity 1 and Louise Michel in international waters off the Libyan coast | Photo: Nicole Thyssen/SOS Humanity Via AP

Several hundred migrants have been rescued in the Mediterranean in the last few days. The migrants were picked up by private rescue ships and the Italian coast guard. Four people are missing after a boat sank off Lampedusa.

Around 450 migrants traveling on a big fishing boat were picked up by the Italian coast guard on Monday, December 5, according to Italian broadcaster Radio Radicale.

Senior correspondent Sergio Scandura tweeted that the migrants rescued were disembarked in a few different ports: About 70 migrants were let ashore in Pozzallo on Monday night, and 200 people in Catania on Tuesday morning. Two further disembarkations were expected, although not confirmed, in Augusta and Messina, according to Scandura.

Prior to the rescue, Alarm Phone had said on Twitter that "about 450 people [were] in distress south-east of Sicily." The organization, which monitors migrant journeys towards Europe, said that the migrants had "fled Libya on a big fishing vessel," and that those on board "report they urgently need help as they are out of drinking water and food."

On Tuesday morning, Alarm Phone posted an update saying that although they had initially lost contact with the boat on Monday evening, two merchant vessels were nearby and that on Tuesday the Italian coast guard had rescued those on board.

Geo Barents

Also on Monday, the crew of the Geo Barents rescue ship run by Doctors without Borders (MSF) tweeted they had rescued 164 migrants in the central Mediterranean in two operations on Sunday and Monday. They added that there were at least 50 unaccompanied minors and 14 women among those rescued.

Fulvia Conte, one of the rescue workers on board the Geo Barents, posted a video to Twitter on Monday, detailing the rescues. She said that the youngest person on board one rubber boat was just 10 years old. "He told us through tears that he had been traveling with his brother, but that his brother had not managed to get on the boat in Libya," explained Conte. All migrants were being offered medical and psychological care, Conte added.

Humanity 1, Louise Michel

Further rescues were carried out by the crews of the private rescue vessel Humanity 1 (run by SOS Humanity) and the smaller rescue boat MV Louise Michel, which was paid for by the sale of the artist Banksy’s artwork.

In a series of tweets on Monday and Tuesday, the organizations said that the combined crews of Humanity 1 and Louise Michel helped bring around 100 people on board the Humanity 1 on Sunday, followed by a rescue of 49 people on Monday.

Sunday's rescue was of an overcrowded rubber boat with 103 people. The crew of Louise Michel tweeted that they had handed out lifejackets, water and food to those on board and waited for the Humanity 1 to arrive as it is much bigger than the Louise Michel. The rescued migrants included one pregnant woman, several infants and over 30 minors, the organizations said.

The crews supported that the "presence of the so-called Libyan coast guard added further tension." However, they said although the coast guard was circulating they "did not intervene." After the rescue operation was completed, they set fire to the empty wooden boat, said the NGO. SOS Humanity said that although both Italian and Maltese SAR coordinators had been informed, they had not "fulfilled their responsibilities."

Shipwreck off Lampedusa

Meanwhile, on Monday, December 5, Italian media reported the sinking of a boat off the coast of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. Bits of rubber and detritus from the boat could be seen floating in the water.

A total of four people have been reported missing from this incident, including, according to the Italian state broadcaster RAI, a baby of just six months and a child of six years old. Two men are also thought to be missing. According to RAI, the boat had left Tunisia for Italy.

According to the UN Migration Agency IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, 197,560 attempted crossings of the Mediterranean (Eastern, Central and Western routes combined) have been recorded this year up to November 18. At least 1,869 were recorded as dead or missing. The Central Mediterranean route from North Africa towards Italy and Malta accounts for 124,621 attempted crossings and about 1,377 deaths or disappearances -- or 1% of all those who try and cross. 51 of those people who died or are presumed dead were children.

The last recorded incident on the IOM website is from December 3 when three people were recorded dead or missing after drowning in the Central Mediterranean.

With dpa and epd


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