Overcrowded Boat in Mediterranean: Bangladeshis among 394 migrants rescued
Two humanitarian rescue ships pulled 394 migrants, including a number of Bangladeshis, from a dangerously overcrowded wooden boat in the Mediterranean yesterday in an operation lasting about six hours, a Reuters witness said.
The German and French NGO ships Sea-Watch 3 and Ocean Viking rescued the migrants in Tunisian waters 68 km (42 miles) from the North African coast, near oil facilities and other ships.
Sea-Watch 3, which assumed command of the operation, took 141 of the survivors while Ocean Viking took the rest. The yacht Nadir, from the German NGO ResQ Ship, later gave support.
The migrants were mainly men from Morocco, Bangladesh, Egypt and Syria.
It was not clear if there were any deaths or injuries among the migrants who were in the wooden boat, which was crammed with migrants on deck and inside the hull.
The craft was taking in water and its engine was not working, the witness said.
Migrant boat departures from Libya and Tunisia to Italy and other parts of Europe have increased in recent months as weather conditions have improved.
According to the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration, more than 1,100 people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East have perished this year in the Mediterranean.
Many of the migrants in this latest rescue were seen jumping off the boat and trying to swim to Sea-Watch 3, the Reuters witness said.
SOS Mediterranee said 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, reports AFP.
A UN Human Rights Office report in late May urged Libya and the EU to overhaul their rescue operations, saying existing policies "fail to prioritise the lives, safety and human rights" of people attempting to cross from Africa.