The Ocean Viking ship received permission from the Italian authorities to return to the search and rescue zone after nearly 20 days. The vessel’s crew successfully rescued 55 migrants, including women and children, aboard a fiberglass boat off the Libyan coast.
The NGO SOS Méditerranée, which operates the Ocean Viking, stated in a press release on Thrusday, that among the migrants were “five women and twelve unaccompanied minors.” The migrants had departed from the shores of Sabratha, Libya, on the boat.
The organisation further highlighted that their crew members on the Ocean Viking witnessed an interception by the Libyan coast guard of another boat carrying approximately 20 migrants.
The migratory route across the central Mediterranean from the Libyan and Tunisian coasts is considered one of the deadliest migration routes in the world.
According to a Spokesperson from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), “more than 1,800 people have lost their lives attempting to cross this route since the beginning of this year, an increase of around 900 compared to the previous year.”
The Spokesperson added, “it is likely that the actual number is much higher. Many bodies have been found at sea, indicating numerous cases of drownings that we have never heard of.”
The Spokesperson emphasised that the number of bodies found has notably increased along the so-called Tunisian route, which has become increasingly dangerous due to the type of boats used. Smugglers transport migrants from sub-Saharan Africa to the sea and place them “in makeshift iron boats that cost less than the usual wooden boats but are completely unfit for navigation and prone to disintegration and sinking.”
Libya’s Government of National Unity (GNU) announced on Wednesday that it has successfully reached a consensus with Tunisia to resolve the pressing issue of irregular migrants stranded in the border region between the two nations.
The government issued a statement outlining the fruitful discussion between Libyan Interior Minister, Emad Al-Trabulsi, and his Tunisian counterpart, Kamal Al-Faqi. The primary focus of their talks was to expedite operations at the shared border crossing of Ras Jedir while streamlining the entry procedures for Libyan citizens into Tunisian territory.