Marseille, France – Rescue ships this weekend picked up more than 700 people trying to cross the Mediterranean, mainly off the coasts of Libya and Malta, a migrant aid group said on Sunday.
The latest figures came as UN migration officials reiterated their call for an impartial mechanism to share responsibility for their care rather than leave Mediterranean countries.
SOS Mediterranean said its ship, Ocean Viking, has conducted six operations in international waters since Saturday.
The Marseille-based organization said that in a previous intervention, it had rescued 106 people off the Maltese coast after being alerted by German aid group Sea Watch.
SOS Mediterranei tweeted, “The youngest child saved in this operation is just 3 months old.”
The group said overnight Saturday through Sunday, Ocean Viking joined ships of the Sea Watch and Rescueship, another German group, to help 400 people in the central Mediterranean.
They were rescued from a ship that was carrying water, a spokesman for the organization told AFP, saying it was a particularly dangerous operation.
Those rescued were shared between Ocean Viking and Sea-Watch3.
From this weekend’s operations alone, Ocean Viking has 555 passengers on board, including at least 28 women, two of whom are pregnant. The organization is yet to determine at which safe harbor they will be able to drop them.
Despite continued insecurity in the country, Libya remains one of the main departure points for thousands of migrants trying to cross the dangerous Mediterranean. Most of them try to reach the Italian coast, about 300 kilometers (190 mi) away.
Celine Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said last month that there was an urgent need for an automated system to share new arrivals between countries, to ensure better reception, and that it would be implemented in the Mediterranean region. I could not leave. Countries should take full responsibility.
“If we look at the central Mediterranean, less than 50,000 people came last year,” she said.
“It’s completely manageable for the European population,” when you consider that there are 82 million people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes, Schmidt said.
Paul Dillon, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), took a similar position last week.
“By advocating for better migration management practices, better migration governance and greater solidarity from EU member states, we can come up with a clear, safe and humane approach to this issue that begins with saving lives at sea,” They said.
The central Mediterranean crossing, between Libya and Italy or Malta, is by far the deadliest in the world, according to IOM figures.
Of the 1,113 deaths recorded in the Mediterranean in the first half of this year, 930 were recorded there.
Still, according to the latest IOM data, an increasing number of migrants have attempted the crossing this year.