In the course of the last week NGO-run vessels have rescued almost 1000 people in at least of 12 operations at the Central Mediterranean. Italy and Malta provided a safe port in two cases.

The rescue vessel ‘Open Arms’, run by the NGO with the same name, has carried out five rescue operations in the Mediterranean within 72 hours saving a total of almost 400 people. In the latest operation, the crew rescued around 100 people from a boat in distress in the Maltese Search and Rescue (SAR) zone. They were alerted by Alarm Phone, which runs a hotline for migrants in distress at the Mediterranean. For another operation rescuing 79 people the crew was guided by the reconnaissance airplane Moonbird, operated by Sea Watch.

In the beginning of this week, the rescue vessel Alan Kurdi, operated by the NGO Sea Eye, has received permission to disembark 77 people, they rescued over the weekend, in a Maltese port. Another 400 people on board the vessel Ocean Viking could disembark in the port of Taranto, Italy. The ship, which is jointly operated by the NGOs SOS MEDITERANEE and MSF, had rescued 407 people at the Mediterranean in five operations in less than 72 hours.

A video tweeted by the Turkey’s National Defence Department documents a Turkish naval ship aiding the return of refugees to Libya and based on their data Alarm Phone suspects that further boats have been pulled back to the war-torn country.

According to a German newspaper, plans to revive the naval mission of EU NAVFOR Med Operation Sophia to back up a UN arms embargo and ceasefire in Libya are unlikely to go ahead as certain member states are concerned about an increased number of people trying to reach the EU. The ships of operation “Sophia”, which was originally launched to stop human trafficking in the Mediterranean, rescued almost 50,000 people at the Mediterranean but their use was suspended in March 2019.

In January 2019, IOM recorded 70 deaths of people trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean.

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Photo: (CC) Olivier ROUX, August 2007

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.