"We were copied on an email sent to the Libyan coastguard by AlarmPhone this morning. As a result, we altered our course towards the potential boat in distress and arrived in the area 90 minutes later," Search and Rescue Coordinator for SOS Mediterranee Nicholas Romaniuk told Al Jazeera onboard the ship.
Among the rescued were 56 adults and 38 children, with 29 of them being unaccompanied. Four of the children are aged below five, with the youngest less than one-year-old. According to Doctors Without Borders everyone’s condition is stable.
“People were in danger of dying on that boat so we didn't hesitate to send our rescue boats out, hand out life jackets to stabilize the situation before making sure everyone was transferred onboard the Ocean Viking,” Romaniuk added.
The Ocean Viking has rescued more than 1,000 people since it started operations in August this year. Last year, the Aquarius, another joint operation run by SOS and MSF, was forced to shut down after rescuing almost 30,000 refugees and migrants in the central Mediterranean.
�� BREAKING: The #OceanViking has just rescued 94 people from a rubber boat in distress. Survivors include 11 women – four of whom are pregnant – as well as 6 very young children. pic.twitter.com/GPd5vWPtkx
Back in October, Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer warned Europe may face a new refugee and migrant influx urging the EU to support Greece and Turkey and to agree on a quota system.
Seehofer, a member of the German conservative party, had already pledged more assistance for both nations in the past, yet the promises have remained mere words and have not been translated into acts so far.
The politician’s statements come as 46,000 refugees and migrants arrived to Europe from Turkey by the end of September, which is 23 percent more than over the same period last year, and 25,000 more are expected to come by the end of 2019, according to the newspaper that interviewed him.
However, the figures are still far lower than in 2015 when Europe saw almost one million refugees.
As of 2019, close to 900,000 asylum seekers in the European Union are waiting to have their claims processed, according to figures from the European statistics office.
“Living in limbo is now the norm for those seeking protection,” said Karl Kopp of Pro Asyl, Germany’s largest pro-immigration advocacy organization, adding that that “means living in the miserable Greek EU hotspots, or being trapped and pushed back at the borders. It means living in a desperate search for protection and human dignity.”
While across the Mediterranean, Libya, with an estimated migrant population of 640,000, has been one of the main departure points for migrants trying to reach Europe. Boatloads of migrants leave frequently from Libya’s north-western coast, though the number attempting the crossing has dropped sharply since mid-2017 under European pressure.
Recently, several detention centers have been closed after human rights abuses were disclosed to the public and rights organizations, and migrants intercepted at sea by Libya’s EU-backed coastguard have reportedly been freed rather than being taken to detention centers.