MARSEILLE – The Ocean Viking migrant rescue ship urged EU members on Tuesday (July 6) to allow 572 people picked up in the Mediterranean Sea over three days to be brought ashore.
The NGO vessel carried out one of its largest rescues in years on Sunday night (July 4), involving a boat that set off from Libya with 369 men, women and children and that was at risk of capsizing.
“Such large unseaworthy wooden boats launched from the coast of Libya had not been encountered by our teams in several years,” the Ocean Viking’s operator, SOS Mediterranee, said in a statement.
The operation was Ocean Viking’s sixth rescue within days.
Earlier Sunday, it rescued 71 migrants from another overcrowded wooden boat that had departed from Libya, a key departure point for crossings from Africa to Europe.
“Amid absence of maritime coordination, SOS Mediterranee calls on the EU to urgently coordinate for 572 survivors to disembark in a place of safety,” Marseille-based SOS Mediterranee said, noting that 183 of those rescued were children.
Since the start of the summer, the number of crossings have increased as migrants take advantage of the good weather and calmer seas, but the numbers of those lost at sea has also risen.
So far this year, more than 880 migrants have died trying to reach Europe from North Africa, according to the International Organization for Migration.
SOS Mediterranee says EU governments are neglecting coordinated search-and-rescue action in a bid to discourage migrants from attempting the crossing from war-torn Libya, where they are often victims of organised crime and militia violence.
Libyan authorities are also accused of forcibly returning intercepted ships to Libya, even when they are in European waters.
A UN Human Rights Office report in late May urged Libya and the European Union to overhaul their rescue operations, saying existing policies “fail to prioritise the lives, safety and human rights” of people attempting to cross from Africa.
EU nations such as Italy and Malta have often resisted letting the migrants into their ports, arguing that more efforts are needed in North Africa to evaluate and organise migration requests.