The Ocean Viking charity ship rescued the 85 African migrants from the sea off Libya Friday, the latest rescue in the Mediterranean. The vessel, operated by French NGOs SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), had to call off its initial search during the night and had to wait till dawn broke to finally find the migrant boat -- to applause from the passengers.
After setting off from Libya, they had been spotted on Thursday evening from a plane flying in the European Union's migrant monitoring operation Sophia.
The 85 migrants come from Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast and Sudan. Among them are five women and 15 children. "It was the start of our third day at sea," said a young woman as she clambered aboard Ocean Viking. Crew members continued to scan the waves for a second vessel that set sail at the same time.
In Italy, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini fired off a warning to Oslo, where the rescue ship is registered. "Italy is not legally bound, nor disposed to taken in clandestine, unidentified migrants from on board the Ocean Viking," he wrote.
Norway's minister of justice and immigration, Joran Kallmyr, said on public television that the migrants should be "transported back to Africa, either to Tunisia or Libya. They should not be sent to Europe because then this action will be an extension of the refugee route instead of a rescue operation".