AFTER nearly three years of operations in which it rescued some 30,000 migrants, the Aquarius was forced to cease operations because of what the group said was obstruction by some European countries.

The International Organisation for Migration says at least 426 people have died trying to cross the central Mediterranean this year.

SOS Meditarranee said the migrants were attempting ''to escape the escalating conflict in Libya and the deplorable conditions of Libyan detention Cenres.''

PARIS : Humanitarian group SOS Mediterranean said on Sunday it has relaunched rescue efforts off Libya seven months after it abandoned its operations using its ship Aquarius and despite a refusal by European ports to accept the migrants.

The Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking will ''conduct search and rescue activities in the central Mediterranean'' for SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders [known by the French initial MSF], the group said in a statement.

''As people are still fleeing Libya on one of the perilous sea crossings in the world, and with almost no available rescue assets present in the central Mediterranean, it has been an imperative for both SOS Mediterranee and MSF to return to sea following the ending of their operations with Aquarius in December 2018.''

The new operation comes a month after the arrest in Italy of Carola Rackete, the German Captain of the Sea Watch 3, for docking without permission to land rescued migrants.

Rackete was held for several days after Sea Watch 3 hit an Italian police speedboat while entering the port of Lampedusa island despite being banned from entering Italian waters.

She argued that she was compelled to avert a human tragedy and bring ashore 40 migrants who had been rescued in the Mediterranean on June 12.

''For a year now we have been witnessing a deterioration in the European Union's response in the evolving human tragedy in the central Mediteranee,'' said the head of operations at SOS Meditaranee, Frederic Penard. [AFP]


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