Hundreds of Migrants Rescued in Stormy Seas off Malta by Doctors Without Borders


In a dramatic 11-hour operation in stormy seas off Malta, hundreds of migrants have been rescued from an overcrowded fishing boat by the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity. According to MSF, its Geo Barents vessel initially struggled with the rescue due to the rough weather, but was able to throw life jackets to the 440 migrants and monitor their situation. The migrants, including eight women and 30 children, spent four days at sea without food or water after setting off from eastern Libya on April 1. One person fainted due to serious dehydration and had to be airlifted to Malta. The group comprises nationals from Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Somalia and Sri Lanka.

The rescue was prompted by a distress call received two days ago by Alarm Phone, a charity that picks up distress calls from migrants crossing the central Mediterranean. The vessel was “practically in the eye” of a storm, facing waves of up to 4.5-5 metres and buffeted by winds of up to 40 knots, according to MSF’s rescue operations chief, Riccardo Gatti.

MSF said it has been instructed to take the migrants, except for a group of 100 who will be handed over to the Italian Coast Guard, to the southeastern Italian port of Brindisi. The Geo Barents is expected to arrive in Brindisi on Friday.

Italy has seen a surge in sea migration from North Africa this year, with more than 28,000 arrivals compared to around 6,800 in the same period of 2022. On Monday, the Italian coast guard carried out another difficult rescue as it picked up 32 migrants stuck on a desert islet near Lampedusa island via helicopter.

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