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Another 81 migrants rescued by charity ship off Libya

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Migrant men stand on the desk of the Ocean Viking ship at sunset after being rescued from the Mediterranean Sea in the past 24 hours on August 10, 2019. – More than 80 migrants, mainly Sudanese men and adolescents, were picked up by the Ocean Viking ship from a rubber dinghy off the coast of Libya, according to Doctors without Borders (MSF), which operates the vessel along with the French charity SOS Mediterranee. (Photo by Anne CHAON / AFP)

French charities SOS Mediterranean and MSF rescued another 81 migrants off the coast of Libya on Sunday, who joined 130 others aboard the ship the Ocean Viking, an AFP reporter said.

The young men, mostly Sudanese, who had left Libya late Saturday in a blue rubber dinghy, clapped and cheered as the ship came into view.

Sunday’s rescue was the third in as many days.

The ship, jointly operated by SOS Mediterranean and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), has been patrolling international waters some 50 nautical miles off the coast of Tripoli.

“We’re the only ones in the area, the Libyan coastguard doesn’t respond” to distressed migrant vessels, SOS Mediterranean search and rescue coordinator Nicholas Romaniuk told an AFP reporter on board the rescue ship.

The ship Open Arms, operated in the same area by Spanish charity Proactiva, counts 160 migrants, of whom 121 have been aboard for 10 days while waiting for reluctant EU states to take them in.

Migrant men stand on the desk of the Ocean Viking ship after being rescued from the Mediterranean Sea in the past 24 hours on August 10, 2019. – More than 80 migrants, mainly Sudanese men and adolescents, were picked up by the Ocean Viking ship from a rubber dinghy off the coast of Libya, according to Doctors without Borders (MSF), which operates the vessel along with the French charity SOS Mediterranee. (Photo by Anne CHAON / AFP)


Romaniuk said fair weather conditions would likely encourage more departures from Libyan shores.

A further incentive is that a three-day Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, which kicked off on Sunday, may reduce the presence of authorities patrolling Libyan beaches.

About two-thirds of those aboard the Ocean Viking are Sudanese.

The group rescued on Friday were from West Africa, mainly from Senegal as well as Ivory Coast, who had come to Libya to work but got caught up in the fighting in the lawless North African country.

MSF, which registers the migrants on board, said Sunday that four-fifths of the latest group to be rescued were aged between 18 and 34, while 17 percent were under 18.

The rescues come at a time of tension between Italy and other EU states, with the Italian government refusing to let migrants land on its shores unless its EU partners help take them in.

The Ocean Viking is registered in Norway, and Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini sent a warning to Oslo last week.

“Italy is not legally bound, nor disposed to take in clandestine, unidentified migrants from onboard the Ocean Viking,” Salvini wrote.

Open Arms founder Oscar Camps on Sunday made a new appeal for European solidarity, tweeting: “Tenth day on board, on a scorching Sunday in August. We have 160 reasons to carry on, 160 human beings who have the right to disembark at a safe port. Shame on you, Europe.”

Open Arms has asked for three ailing migrants to be allowed to disembark, one with TB, one with pneumonia and a third with cancer.


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