ABOARD THE SEABIRD — An Italian offshore supply vessel on Saturday rescued 65 migrants, including women and children, fleeing Libya to Europe on a crowded, wooden boat.
The migrant boat was drifting after its engine stopped working and was spotted by the Seabird, an NGO monitoring aircraft flying over the central Mediterranean. The Asso Ventinove, a supply vessel for the Asso Ventinove near Bouri oilfield, was able to rescue the passengers aboard the migrant boat. They were not wearing life jackets. The rescue was witnessed by an Associated Press journalist who flew with Seabird.
A Libyan coast guard vessel arrived on the scene shortly afterward to inspect the empty boat. After rescues, it is not uncommon for Libyan authorities that engines are recovered by them.
The Asso Ventinove reported that all the people rescued, including five children, appeared in good health. The captain communicated with the Seabird by radio and said that he was waiting to receive orders from Rome’s rescue and coordination centre to give them safe places to embark the migrants.
So far this year some 44,000 people have reached European shores by crossing the central Mediterranean from Tunisia and Libya, often at the hands of smugglers who put them on unseaworthy boats. About half the people who reached Europe disembarked at Lampedusa (an Italian island that is closer to North Africa and Italy than Italy).
Despite the increasing arrivals, many fail.
As of Sept. 25, more than 25,000 people had been intercepted by the EU-trained and equipped Libyan coast guard this year and returned to the war-torn country, according to the U.N. migration agency.
Once disembarked, the migrants are often placed in squalid detention centers where they are subject to extortion, torture and abuse.
There were also more than 1,100 deaths recorded by the IOM in the Central Mediterranean this year.