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Screenshot from Alan Kurdi, Malta. YouTube

NGOs announce invasion: ‘800 migrants left from Libya’

Alarm Phone - an organisation which mans an alarm number to support rescue NGO operations - speaks of a "mass escape" of migrants from the country in conflict. And Ocean Viking has asked for a safe harbor for the 407 shipwrecked rescued in the last hours in the Mediterranean this week.

Published: January 28, 2020, 8:22 am

    The exodus of migrants from Libya continues. Once again it is Alarm Phone, which deals with reporting vessels in difficulty in the Mediterranean, that sounded the alarm: in the last three days almost 800 people have fled Libya.

    Some “720 reached Europe,” say activists on Twitter. The messages are in Italian and English. “Mass escape from Libya”, one of the posts is titled. “Between Friday and Sunday 24 and 26 January Alarm Phone received calls from seven boats in danger in the central Mediterranean with more than 500 people on board fleeing the war in Libya,” according to the volunteers, announcing how five drifting boats were rescued by NGO ships, and two by the Maltese authorities.

    “In 3 days at least 13 boats fled Libya, almost 800 people,” is the organisation’s estimate. Some 407 migrants were rescued by Ocean Viking, the ship operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranée. “There are currently 407 people on board, including women (12 pregnant) and children,” they write from the boat asking for a safe landing “in the shortest possible time”.

    The volunteers are concerned about the weather conditions, which could worsen in the next few hours.

    The rescues, the activists themselves say, took place at night, “in very difficult conditions”. That means there were at least five rescue operations in less than 72 hours. Another 184 people were taken from two rafts, with 102 at 80 nautical miles from Libya and 82 in the Maltese search and rescue area.

    A further 71 people were rescued in a previous rescue while sailing on a wooden boat. Everyone, according to the French NGO, “said they had fled a situation that is worsening in Libya”. For this reason they chose to travel “despite the winter conditions”.

    The situation on board is not simple. In the afternoon, a woman with “severe fuel burns” was taken away by helicopter with her three children. The rescue heli headed to Malta, where the treatment provided by Medici staff “stabilized her conditions at the risk of complications” last night.

    “In the Mediterranean hundreds of people survived this weekend only thanks to the intervention of the NGOs who worked tirelessly,” UNHCR spokesperson Carlotta Sami tweeted via the social network.

    Meanwhile, the spokesman of the European Commission Adalbert Jahnz, in a meeting with the press in Brussels, announced that he “has not yet received any request to coordinate the transfer of rescued migrants to the Central Mediterranean” by Ocean Viking and Alan Kurdi, the ship of the German NGO Sea Eye which in recent days has rescued 78 migrants.

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