94 migrants rescued by NGO ship off Libya’s coast

Migrants and refugees sit on a rubber boat. [Photo: AFP]
94 illegal migrants, including four pregnant women, have been rescued by a charity ship off the coast of Libya.

The Ocean Viking, operated jointly by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF), carried out Tuesday’s rescue mission after being notified of a boat in distress.

“We were copied on an email sent to the Libyan coastguard by AlarmPhone this morning. As a result, we altered our course towards the potential boat in distress and arrived in the area 90 minutes later,” Nicholas Romaniuk, search and rescue coordinator for SOS Mediterranee, told Al Jazeera onboard the Ocean Viking.

The people rescued 42 nautical miles (78km) off Libya’s coast include 56 adults – 45 male and 11 female – and 38 children, of which at least 29 were unaccompanied. Four of the children are aged below five, with the youngest less than one-year-old.

“The weather conditions were not terrible for us but if it’s a rubber boat you’re on, one that is not certified to carry any weight, it can be deadly with the waves,” Romaniuk said. People were in danger of dying on that boat so we didn’t hesitate to send our rescue boats out, hand out life jackets to stabilise the situation before making sure everyone was transferred onboard the Ocean Viking.”

More than 1,000 people have been feared drowned in the Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organization of Migration (IOM). Almost 700 of those have been recorded in the central Mediterranean, with refugees and migrants embarking on the dangerous journey to Europe from Libya.

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