A French NGO, SOS Méditerranée, has been responsible for saving 438 migrants through a rescue ship called Ocean Viking in the Mediterranean Sea. The rescues were located off the coast of Tunisia and Libya, the organisation, which is based in Marseille, said in its statement, reports The National, VOA and a number of media outlets.
Among those rescued were nine babies, 32 unaccompanied minors, as well as five people with disabilities. The evacuation started on Thursday the 24th and finished late at night on Friday the 25th August.
The Mediterranean Sea is the deadliest route of migration, with already at least 2’013 people having died or gone missing this year so far, according to the United Nations Migration Agency, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
For these migrants, in order to get to the Mediterranean Sea in the first place, they would have all had to cross the Sahara to begin with, which is another one of the deadliest routes, with many losing their lives before making it across the desert, which migrants have had to take when they are forced to flee their country from war or persecution.
For those trying to reach Europe from North Africa, their usual departure Port is Lampedusa, a small Italian island, which is located approximately 145 kilometres from Tunisia.
On the first night of its rescue, the NGO reported that it had rescued a total of 272 people, out of three boats, from 23 different nationalities. Then, on Friday, 25th August, the organisation saved a further 136 people from a number of boats.
This summer, there has been an influx of fatalities taking place in the Mediterranean Sea, as a result of people having been forced to flee their countries amidst civil wars or persecution. With nowhere else to turn, many resort to paying smugglers to get them across the sea over to Europe.
However, the United Nations International Migration Organisation said, that, the added danger, this summer, has come from the fact, that the traffickers are now using iron boats, which cost less than the wooden boats that are usually used, but iron boats are “utterly unseaworthy”.
🔴 Almost 10 hours of nonstop operations: The team on the #OceanViking assisted multiple boats in distress and evacuated survivors in coordination with the Italian Coast Guard between Lampedusa and Tunisia since the early morning.
438 survivors are currently onboard. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/UQ6QWaQS97
— SOS MEDITERRANEE (@SOSMedIntl) August 25, 2023
Just 2 weeks ago, between the 10th and the 12th August, the same NGO, SOS Méditerranée, had carried out its biggest rescue operation thus far, after having rescued 623 people within only 36 hours. The Ocean Viking crew members first saved people from unsafe boats, before aiding them to arrive in Italy safely.
On board of the Ocean Viking rescue ship, the IFRC protection team leader, Ahmed Bentalha, was quoted as saying: “I want people to understand that when someone makes this kind of journey it’s because they have no other choice.”