French NGOs Save 81 Migrants off Libya’s Coast, Mostly from Sudan
Only migrants in extreme health conditions have been taken in by Malta and Italy.
The Ocean Viking ship operated by French charities SOS Mediterranean and MSF (Doctors without Borders) have picked up 81 mostly Sudanese migrants from a blue rubber dinghy off the coast of Libya.
The migrants were rescued on Sunday, after that left Libya the day before. Their rescue was the third in three days by the Ocean Viking, AFP and France24 report.
The ship run jointly by SOS Mediterranean and Doctors without Borders has been patrolling about 50 nautical miles from Libya’s capital Tripoli for vessels carrying migrants trying to reach the EU.
About two-thirds of those newly rescued by the Ocean Viking are Sudanese. A group rescued on Friday came from West Africa, mostly from Senegal and Ivory Coast, consisting of migrants who had at first come for work in Libya.
On Twitter, MSF announced that there were a total of 251 migrants aboard the ship at present.
Four-fifths of the latest group to be rescued were aged between 18 and 34, while 17 percent were under 18.
“We’re the only ones in the area, the Libyan coastguard don’t respond” to distressed migrant vessels, SOS Mediterranean search and rescue coordinator Nicholas Romaniuk told an AFP reporter on board the rescue ship.
In his words, fair weather conditions would likely encourage more departures from Libyan shores, and so would the three-day Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, beginning on Sunday, which would likely the presence of authorities patrolling Libyan beaches.
The Ocean Viking is registered in Norway, which led Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to send a warning to Oslo last week.
“Italy is not legally bound, nor disposed to take in clandestine, unidentified migrants from on board the Ocean Viking,” Salvini wrote.
The Italian government has been refusing to let migrants land on its shores unless its EU partners help take them in.
Another migrant rescue ship, the Open Arms, operated in the same area by Spanish charity Proactiva, counts 160 migrants, of whom 121 have been aboard for 10 days while waiting for reluctant EU states to take them in.
Nine of the migrants rescued by Open Arms were allowed to disembark on Sunday, eight of them flown by helicopter to Malta and one to the southernmost Italian island of Lampedusa.
Most were evacuated for suspected tuberculosis or pneumonia, while a 32-year-old woman required treatment for brain cancer.
(Banner Image: MSF on Twitter)