On board the Ocean Viking (AFP)

The Ocean Viking, the boat chartered by SOS Mediterranean and Médecins sans Frontières, returned to Marseilles Tuesday after a first mission that allowed him to rescue 356 people off Libyan waters, AFP reported.

The boat, which took over the Aquarius, private pavilion fn 2018, was ready to dock in the early afternoon in the commercial port of Marseille, where he had sailed on August 4.

Operating in a context of suspicion towards NGOs that are helping migrants in the Mediterranean, the boat has waited more than twelve days between Lampedusa, the Italian island off Sicily and Malta, which finally agreed Friday night to collect passengers, following a distribution agreement between several European states.

The Ocean Viking will stay a few days at the dock and intends to leave probably "over the weekend" for a new mission, said officials of the two NGOs on board.

The rescue sailors of SOS Mediterranean carried out four rescue operations in international waters between August 9th and 12th, each time recovering from 80 to more than 100 people aboard dinghies in very bad condition.

Among them were four women, five children aged one to six, and over 80 minors aged 15 to 18, the majority of whom traveled unaccompanied.

Two of these rescues were conducted because the boats had been spotted by binoculars by the 24-hour watchdog on the bridge by rescue teams, said Nicholas Romaniuk, coordinator of operations. In particular the last rescued boat, which broke out when the sailors arrived at their range were distributing the lifejackets.

Two others because the boats were overflown by European planes of Operation Sofia in the Mediterranean, who did not contact the Ocean Viking to report them.

Survivors who arrived on board the boat told of their anguish at being intercepted by the Libyan coastguard who is returning them to Libya, where they are generally placed in a detention camp and mistreated.

Europe has been entrusting the Libyan coastguard for more than a year with the task of intercepting boats heading for its coasts.

Several interceptions have been reported since the Ocean Viking left the rescue zone, on the 13th, when very few humanitarian ships manage to maintain their operations in the central Mediterranean, accused of complicity with the smugglers.

"Our job is not to get people out of Libya, but to prevent them from dying at sea," Romaniuk insists.

© 2019 AFP