The Ocean Viking rescue vessel has picked up 128 stranded migrants in three operations off the coast of Libya, the Marseille-based SOS Mediterranee, which runs the ship, said Saturday.
The Italian authorities then designated the port of Ortona, located in the centre of the country on the Adriatic coast, to disembark the survivors, much to the dismay of the NGO, which criticised this “distant” choice.
“They will have to endure three more days of pointless sailing to finally reach a safe place,” the group complained in a statement.
On Friday night, the Ocean Viking carried out two rescues following alerts received on a migrant alert phone number, both in “the Libyan search and rescue region”.
In the first, they took 33 people from a boat that was “unseaworthy”, and on which no one was wearing a life jacket.
Four hours later, 34 other migrants were rescued in similar circumstances.
Several of those picked up had severe fuel burns, with one collapsing after boarding Ocean Viking, the NGO.
Then on Saturday afternoon, following a distress signal relayed by a fishing vessel, the Ocean Viking rescued 61 more people, including three women and two children, from a wooden boat in distress in international waters off Libya.
SOS Mediterranee has rescued more than 39,000 people in the Mediterranean since 2016, mainly in the central area, the world’s most dangerous migration route.
Since January, 2,468 migrants have gone missing after attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration.
On the front lines of the increase in migrant crossings, Italy recently adopted a decree that partly hampers the activities of NGO ships.