Ocean Viking aid ship rescues 196 migrants off Libya

Among the rescued are at least two pregnant women and 33 children

A humanitarian ship operating in the people trafficking waters of the Mediterranean Sea rescued 196 people on Saturday.

The Ocean Viking, chartered by SOS Mediterranee, pulled them from the waters off Libya in four separate missions. It first picked up 57 people in an inflatable dinghy struggling in international waters off Libya.

The ship's crew carried out two additional rescues in the same area Saturday afternoon, first plucking 54 people from a dinghy and 64 others from a wooden vessel.

In their last operation, they rescued 21 people from another wooden vessel. Among the rescued are at least two pregnant women and 33 children, 22 of them unaccompanied.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, at least 1,146 people have died at sea trying to reach Europe during the first half of 2021.

SOS Mediterranee says it has rescued more than 30,000 people since February 2016, first with the ship Aquarius, then with Ocean Viking.

SOS Mediterranee accuses European Union governments of neglecting coordinated search-and-rescue action 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 EU to overhaul rescue operations, saying the existing policies “fail to prioritise the lives, safety and human rights” of people attempting to cross from Africa.

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 number of people lost at sea has also risen.

Updated: August 1st 2021, 12:45 AM