The private sea rescuers of the ship Ocean Viking have rescued several hundred boat migrants in the central Mediterranean Sea in a major operation.
The crew took a total of almost 370 people on board from a wooden boat in Libyan waters on Monday night, operators SOS Mediterranee announced on Monday morning. Their boat was in danger of capsizing during the five-hour operation.
The Ocean Viking is currently the only ship of a private sea rescue organization operating in the central Mediterranean.
Those brought aboard in the latest rescue operation join several hundred boat migrants brought to safety in recent days. Most of them were making their way from Tunisia or Libya in overcrowded boats towards the EU.
According to the organization, there are now more than 570 people on the Ocean Viking. The ship is now “quite full,” a spokeswoman explained.
In such cases, the private sea rescuers usually ask the authorities in Malta and Italy to permit them to dock in a safe port to bring the people ashore. In Italy, the operations are sometimes politically controversial.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Refugee Agency has reported that around 250 people had been “rescued” or “intercepted” by the Libyan coastguard and brought back to the war-torn country.
Non-governmental organizations criticize this because people in Libya are often threatened with violence. According to UN figures, more than 720 migrants have died in the central Mediterranean this year.