Rescue ships have picked up more than 700 people this weekend as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean in makeshift vessels, mainly off the coasts of Libya and Malta, a migrant relief agency said Sunday.
The latest figures came as UN migration officials reiterated their call for a fairer mechanism to share responsibility for caring for them, rather than leaving it to the Mediterranean countries.
SOS Mediterranee said its ship, the Ocean Viking, has conducted six separate operations in international waters since Saturday.
In the latest such intervention, it has rescued 106 people off the Maltese coast after being alerted by the German aid agency Sea-Watch, the Marseille-based organization said.
“The youngest survivor rescued during this operation is only 3 months old,” tweeted SOS Mediterranee.
From Saturday to Sunday, the Ocean Viking joined ships from Sea Watch and ResQship, another German group, to help 400 troubled people in the central Mediterranean, the group said.
They were rescued from a ship that was taking in water in what an organization spokesperson told AFP was a particularly dangerous operation.
Those who were rescued were split between the Ocean Viking and Sea-Watch3.
Ocean Viking alone has 555 passengers aboard this weekend’s operations, including at least 28 women, two of whom are pregnant. The organization has yet to determine in which safe harbor they can leave them.
Libya remains one of the main departure points for tens of thousands of migrants who want to attempt the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean, despite the ongoing insecurity in the country. Most of them try to reach the Italian coast, some 300 kilometers (190 miles) away.
Migrant numbers ‘fully manageable’
Celine Schmitt, the spokesman for the French operation of the UN Refugee Agency, said last month that there was an urgent need for an automatic system to distribute the newcomers among the countries, to guarantee them better reception – and not to Mediterranean countries. to take any responsibility.
“If we look at the central Mediterranean, there were fewer than 50,000 people last year,” she said.
“It’s completely manageable for the European population,” when you consider that there are 82 million people worldwide who are forced to flee their homes, Schmitt said.
IOM spokesman Paul Dillon took a similar stance last week.
“By advocating for better migration management practices, better migration management and greater solidarity from EU Member States, we can devise a clear, safe and humane approach to this issue that starts with saving lives at sea,” he said. .
The crossing through the Central Mediterranean, between Libya and Italy or Malta, is by far the deadliest in the world, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Of the 1,113 deaths recorded in the Mediterranean in the first half of this year, 930 were recorded.
Still, according to the latest IOM figures, more and more migrants have tried to make the crossing this year.