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The rescue ship “Ocean Viking” took 113 people on board

The rescue ship “Ocean Viking” of the relief organization SOS Mediterranee took 113 people on board in the Mediterranean Sea last night. The organization, which is based in Marseille in southern France, said that among those rescued were 23 women, some of whom were pregnant, and about 30 unaccompanied minors and three children.

The people were rescued in international waters, where the Maltese authorities are in charge of search and rescue operations. SOS Mediterranee said the refugees “sat in complete darkness in an overcrowded rubber dinghy”.

The first mission after the asylum dispute

Red Cross and Red Crescent workers took care of them on board the Ocean Viking. The Ocean Viking continues to patrol and it is “too early” to say where a rescue ship can allow the refugees to return to shore, Mireille Soti, a spokeswoman for the relief organisation, told AFP.

This is the first rescue of the Ocean Viking since it arrived in France in November after a diplomatic row between Paris and Rome. Carrying 230 migrants rescued between Italy and Libya, the ship managed to dock in Toulon, southeastern France, after three weeks of searching for a safe port. The new right-wing government in Rome refused to allow the rescue ship to dock in an Italian port.

International Organization for Migration: The most dangerous road in the world

Nearly 2,000 refugees have drowned or gone missing in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year, more than 1,300 of them in the central Mediterranean, which according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the most dangerous escape route in the world.

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Every year, thousands of people attempt to flee conflict and poverty across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. It is about 300 km from the Libyan coast to Italy.