(Marseille) In three rescues in the space of just seven hours, the Ocean Viking, ambulance ship of SOS Méditerranée, rescued 153 migrants on Friday in the central Mediterranean, in the Maltese search area, learned the AFP Saturday with the NGO.

These search and rescue operations were “closely coordinated by the Italian maritime authorities”, welcomed the European association for rescue at sea based in Marseille (France), recalling that “SOS Méditerranée has been calling for such vital coordination efforts”.

The operations were triggered after an alert via Alarm Phone, a telephone line for people in distress at sea run by an NGO.

These three rescues successively saved 59 people and then 65 people on board two wooden boats, three hours apart. Then 29 people in distress aboard a fiberglass boat were rescued.

At sea for five days, including two without water or food, these survivors were exhausted and largely dehydrated, according to SOS Méditerranée.

With the 15 migrants rescued on Thursday, it is therefore with a total of 168 survivors – including seven women, four children and around twenty unaccompanied minors – that the Ocean Viking is now heading for Civitavecchia, the safe port designated for it. by the Italian authorities, 942 km away, i.e. three days of navigation.

Even though many rescues take place in the Maltese search area, the Maltese authorities do not respond to requests for assistance from humanitarian NGOs helping migrants, and in particular SOS Méditerranée, and it is ultimately the Italian authorities who usually point them to a safe harbor.

But Italy’s practice of assigning very distant ports to sea rescue NGOs was denounced in early January by several international NGOs according to which it is in fact “to hinder the assistance to people in distress” in wasting a lot of their time and therefore de facto reducing their 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. This figure is already 824 since the beginning of 2023.