Migrants on a wooden boat in northern Libya during a rescue operation by SOS Méditerranée and MSF on August 29, 2017. -

Darko Bandic / AP / SIPA

The NGO Alarm Phone, which receives distress calls from migrants, said in a statement that about 60 people were missing after the engine of their boat burned.

The drama took place off the coast of Libya.

On the night of Wednesday March 17 to Thursday March 18, in heavy weather, “a gray wooden boat with over 100 people on board called Alarm Phone.

People on the phone were in panic because the engine was on fire.

Alarm Phone alerted the authorities concerned as well as the Ocean Viking ”, details a press release from the NGO.

116 survivors disembarked in Italy

The Ocean Viking launched a search operation, without success, for lack of being able to obtain the GPS coordinates of the boat.

Survivors spoke of the presence on board of Sudanese, Senegalese, Syrians, Pakistanis, Moroccans and Egyptians.

About 45 of them were reportedly rescued by Libyan fishermen.

Rome has also given the green light for the entry into Italian territory of 116 men, women and children rescued last week off Libya by the ship of the French NGO SOS Méditerranée, it announced on its twitter account.

“Relief aboard the Ocean Viking after several days of bad weather.

The Italian authorities have allocated the port of Augusta, in Sicily, for the disembarkation of 116 survivors ”, indicated the NGO.

The last survivors aboard the # OceanViking disembarked in Augusta (Sicily).



The 116 people rescued, including 51 unaccompanied minors, were tested for Covid-19 by Italian health authorities.

In total 6 pers.

tested positive via a rapid test.

pic.twitter.com/tPsicyLr10

- SOS MEDITERRANEE France (@SOSMedFrance) March 23, 2021

1,200 migrants died at sea in 2020

The Ocean Viking, which is on its second mission of the winter, first rescued ten people on March 18, including three children and a baby.

Then on March 20, the crew had recovered 106 migrants, including 31 men, eight women and 67 minors.

The candidates for exile from Africa leave mainly Tunisia and Libya to reach Europe via Italy, whose coasts are the closest.

More than 1,200 migrants perished in 2020 in the Mediterranean, the vast majority of them on this central route, according to the International Organization for Migration.

NGO ships, such as the Ocean Viking, save lives but have also been accused for several years of playing the game of smugglers.

The European Union has been divided on how to handle the problem since the irregular migrant crisis began in 2015. At the beginning of March, the Council of Europe had vilified the "lack of will of European states" to establish protection policies for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, causing the loss of “thousands of human lives”.

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