Three NGO ships — the Ocean Viking, Nadir, and Geo Barents — operate with little to no help from the state authorities
CIVILIAN rescuers have saved the lives of close to 189 refugees, including at least 20 unaccompanied children and a newborn baby, in the Mediterranean since Saturday.
The rescues were carried out without the help of state authorities by three NGO ships in the Maltese and Libyan search-and-rescue (SAR) zones, waters within which those governments are legally responsible for bringing people in distress to safety.
European charity SOS Mediterranee‘s rescue ship Ocean Viking picked up 25 people from a wooden boat 28 nautical off the coast of Libya on Saturday.
On Sunday morning, the ship’s crew found another boat in Libya’s SAR zone carrying 33 people. Two of the survivors, SOS Mediterranee said, were under close medical observation by doctors aboard the ship from the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC).
The Ocean Viking’s first two rescues were carried out with the help of NGO reconnaissance planes Seabird and Colibri2 — the first operated by German organisation Sea-Watch, the second by French NGO Pilot Volontaires.
Later that afternoon, the Nadir, a sailing ship operated by German NGO ResQShip carrying out human rights monitoring missions in the Mediterranean, encountered 58 people crammed onto a small wooden boat drifting through Malta’s SAR zone.
The Nadir’s crew contacted the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), but no help came.
“Since the Maltese MRCC denied its responsibility once again,” ResQship posted on social media on Sunday, “and the Nadir is not designed to rescue so many people, we contacted the nearest vessel with the appropriate capacities: the Ocean Viking of SOS Mediterranee. She took the people safely on board in the evening.”
The Nadir faced a similar emergency last Tuesday when her crew picked up 27 people, including several children and a pregnant woman, inside Malta’s SAR zone.
“Our crew immediately informed all responsible European authorities, but they remained inactive until the morning hours,” ResQShip said at the time.
“At around 8am, the Italian coastguard sent a ship to pick up the people and bring them to a safe harbour.”
The rescued, ResQShip said, “had already been at sea for three days. Some reported traumatic experiences during their escape.”
Following the Nadir and Ocean Viking’s joint rescue on Sunday night, the latter’s crew carried out another, its fourth operation in two days, bringing on board another 13 people.
“This morning, two persons rescued this weekend were medically evacuated from the Ocean Viking by the Italian coastguard with four family members. They both had chronic conditions and needed urgent onshore medical care,” SOS Mediterranee said this morning.
“123 survivors remain onboard. The youngest is less than 30 days old.”
Elsewhere, a rescue ship operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the Geo Barents, carried out two rescues in Libya’s SAR zone today.
The first operation involved the rescue of six people from a fibreglass boat. The second saw 54 people, including six women, 21 unaccompanied minors and one baby, brought on board the Geo Barents.
“‘Our sufferings in Libya are over’, they screamed when the Geo Barents approached their boat,” MSF tweeted this morning.
“Most survivors are suffering from mild fuel exposure and some of them sustained small injuries on the boat in distress.”
Meanwhile, the EU-supported Libyan coastguard intercepted 134 people last night and brought them back to the war-torn country.
The Libyan coastguards intercepted more than 800 people last week, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokeswoman Safa Msehli warned last Friday.
“Of more than 24,000 people intercepted this year, roughly 6,000 are in arbitrary detention.
“The majority are unaccounted for.”
Top image shows a young girl on board a wooden boat in Libya’s SAR zone. [Pic: SOS Mediterranee].