The humanitarian ship Aquarius rescued Friday 141 people off the coast of Libya on its first mission since it resumed sea. He said he is now waiting for instructions from the Libyan rescue coordination center.
The boat managed by the Franco-German SOS Mediterranean Association and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) first recovered 25 migrants on Friday, including six women, who were on a small wooden boat about 25 nautical km) from the Libyan coast.
The conditions were calm and sunny, but the boat, weighed down by too many passengers, was very little above the waterline. Those on board seemed tense and worried as the rescuers approached.
Later, another 116 people were removed from a second wooden boat in the same area, including 38 women and 73 minors. Although larger, this ship was also overcrowded.
No referral to Libya
The Libyan coastguard, the coordinating authority for rescues, has been informed, the Aquarius says on its online logbook. The Aquarius, who sailed last week for its tenth mission this year, still does not know where it can get those rescued on Friday. According to international law, refugees rescued at sea can not be put back in danger.
The crew made it clear before leaving that they would not send migrants back to Libya because the country is not considered a safe haven for migrants and refugees, both by the United Nations and the European Union.
The Aquarius resumed the sea on 1 August after being the subject of a dispute in June between Italy and Malta that had refused to receive migrants collected at sea. He had spent nine days at sea before to be able to land in Spain the migrants he had collected. The conflict has had repercussions throughout the EU and caused political tensions between Rome and Paris.
More than 650,000 arrivals
Under pressure from Italy and Malta, most humanitarian ships no longer patrol off the coast of Libya. More than 650,000 migrants have arrived on the Italian coast since 2014.
Although departures from Libya have dropped dramatically this year, smugglers are still pushing boats out to sea. Some 720 people died in June and July when NGO ships were mostly absent from the area, Amnesty International estimates.