(Marseille) The Ocean Viking, an ambulance ship chartered by SOS Méditerranée, rescued 15 migrants in distress in international waters on Thursday afternoon, “in the Maltese search and rescue zone”, announced Friday in a press release this NGO.
None of these people on board an “unseaworthy” fiberglass boat had life jackets, said the humanitarian association based in Marseille, in the south of France.
Friday morning, the humanitarian ship was still “in full rescue operation”, for other drifting migrants, SOS Méditerranée told AFP, and was therefore not yet heading for a port.
The NGO has not indicated whether a safe port, or port of refuge, has already been assigned to it by the Italian authorities to disembark these migrants rescued at sea. A week ago, after having rescued 29 people Adrift already aboard a fiberglass boat, the Ocean Viking had to make its way to the port of Bari in Puglia, two days sailing from the place of rescue.
Even though many rescues take place in the Maltese search area, the Maltese authorities never respond to requests for assistance from humanitarian NGOs helping migrants, and in particular SOS Méditerranée, and it is ultimately the Italian authorities who designate them a safe harbor.
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” by now forcing their ships to surrender “without delay to an Italian port after each rescue, generally assigning them very distant ports, 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.