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SOS Mediterranee relaunches migrant rescue missions off Libya

SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) "are back at sea with a new vessel, the Ocean Viking, to conduct search and rescue activities in the central Mediterranean", it said.

Picture taken in the search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean sea by SOS Mediterranée. Picture: @SOSMedFrance/Twitter

ROME – Humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee said Sunday it has relaunched migrant rescue operations off Libya, seven months after it was forced to abandon efforts using its ship Aquarius.

SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) "are back at sea with a new vessel, the Ocean Viking, to conduct search and rescue activities in the central Mediterranean", it said.

"As people are still fleeing Libya on one of the most perilous sea crossings in the world, and with almost no available rescue assets present in the central Mediterranean, it has been an imperative for both SOS Mediterranee and MSF to return at sea following the ending of their operations with the Aquarius in December 2018."

It added that "426 people, of which we are aware of, have died since the beginning of the year in the central Mediterranean in an attempt to escape the escalating conflict in Libya and the deplorable conditions of Libyan detention centres."

After nearly three years of operations in which it rescued some 30,000 migrants, the Aquarius was forced to cease operations in December 2018 because of what the group said was obstruction by some European countries.

Funded in partnership with MSF, the Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking has a crew of nine, plus a search and rescue team and medical and other staff.

Libya, which has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi, has long been a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa, desperate to reach Europe.

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