(Marseille) The Ocean Viking ambulance ship chartered by SOS Méditerranée, rescued 29 migrants in distress overnight from Thursday to Friday “in the Maltese search and rescue region”, announced in a press release the humanitarian NGO based in Marseilles (south of France).

The alert was given via Alarm Phone, a hotline for people in distress at sea run by an NGO. The migrants, “in distress at sea for five days”, were on board an “unseaworthy fiberglass boat” according to the NGO, which assures that “20 hours passed between the first alert and the moment where the Ocean Viking found the reported vessel in distress”.

“Although aware of the situation, the maritime authorities failed to rescue those left on board and subjected to deteriorating weather conditions,” the NGO continues, stating that “while the Ocean Viking was carrying out the evacuation of the castaways, a Maltese helicopter hovered above the boat and an Italian patrol boat was also present on the scene, [but] neither of them assisted the SOS Méditerranée teams in the search, nor supported the coordination “.

The NGO specifies that the Italian authorities have designated the port of Bari to disembark the rescued people, i.e. two days of navigation.

In early January, several international NGOs involved in rescue operations for migrants in the Mediterranean denounced the desire of the far-right Italian government “to hinder assistance to people in distress”. They pointed to the cross-effects of a decree obliging ships to proceed “without delay” to an Italian port after each rescue, and the usual assignment of very distant ports, reducing assistance capacities.

The central Mediterranean is the most dangerous migration route in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The UN agency estimates that in 2022, 1,417 migrants disappeared there.