Watch: 223 people rescued by Ocean Viking in three separate operations

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Video: MSF Sea/Twitter

A total of 223 individuals have been rescued by the civilian search and rescue boat, Ocean Viking, which is operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee since it left the port of Pozzallo, Italy on 22 January. A number of unaccompanied minors as well as pregnant women were among the two groups rescued in three separate operations. The last group, a group of 72 individuals were rescued in the search and rescue area which falls under the responsibility of the Maltese according to Doctors Without Borders.

After sailing towards the Central Mediterranean, the vessel was informed by migrant hotline Alarm Phone on 24 January about a potential boat in distress. Ocean Viking forwarded the information it received to the Libyan Joint Coordination Centre informing it about a potential boat in distress. After making visual contact with the boat in distress, the Ocean Viking launched rubber boats to assess the situation. A total of 92 people were rescued by the Ocean Viking on Friday from an overcrowded rubber boat.

SOS Mediterranee said that the Italian, Maltese, Libyan and European authorities were informed about the rescue, as well as the NGO vessel Alan Kurdi and Alarm Phone. A place of safety has been requested from the Italian, Maltese and Libyan authorities, however, it is only the latter who replied designating Tripoli as a place of safety. The humanitarian ship refused the offer, saying that Tripoli does not meet the criteria for a place of safety.

MSF described the rescue as a challenging operation and many of the survivors were found to be suffering from hypothermia.

The group is composed of 15 women, 39 men, and 38 minors according to the information published by MSF and SOS Mediterranee. 32 out of the 38 minors are unaccompanied minors. Two are under the age of five. While there are four pregnant women in the group. The group consists of individuals mainly from West Africa, the claimed nationalities are; Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Guinea Conakry, Mali, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Benin, Gambia and Somalia.

On Saturday, a separate group of 59 individuals were rescued by Ocean Viking. The group is composed of three women, 34 men, and 22 minors of which only 1 is accompanied. The claimed nationalities are Morocco, Bangladesh and Gambia. The people were travelling in a small wooden boat and were rescued approximately 26 nautical miles off the Libyan coast.

On Saturday evening a third group of individuals was rescued. Writing on Twitter, MSF said that at least there were six reported distress cases across the Central Mediterranean. It added that a third group consisting of 72 people who were travelling on a ‘highly unstable and overcrowded wooden boat’ in the Maltese search and rescue region were rescued by the humanitarian vessel.