Toddlers among migrants pulled from Libyan waters


Seventy-three migrants were rescued by a Spanish charity ship from a packed rubber dinghy drifting off Libyan for nearly 24 hours.

It is the latest rescue by the Open Arms vessel in the Mediterranean, where more than a thousand migrants on their way from north Africa to Europe are believed drowned or missing so far in 2019, according to UN figures.

Open Arms repeatedly clashed with governments in Italy and Malta in its efforts to save migrants attempting the dangerous crossing, with both countries resisting attempts to land those rescued on their territory.

The migrants taken on board on Wednesday included two children under five.

They looked petrified as they were lifted out of the dinghy, Reuters video footage showed.

The migrants, mostly from Central and Western Africa, were crammed in a dinghy with a broken engine, according to Open Arms spokeswoman Laura Lanuza.

Many were in shock suffering from hypothermia and second-degree burns from prolonged exposure to saltwater and gasoline, she added.

One young man from Niger had gunshot wounds he said were sustained in a Libyan detention centre.

Open Arms mission chief Ricardo Gati said the rescue took place near the Libyan town Aawiya, the NGO was seeking to disembark at a European port.

“We would like a response from a functional government, which leaves Italy or Malta. The closest safe port is in Italy,” said Gati. “We’re waiting to see what the response is and how long we have to wait.”

This summer, the NGO was involved in a stand-off with the Italian government, with 100 migrants on board Open Arms in deteriorating conditions. It ended when an Italian court ordered authorities to open a port.

He warned time was running short. “Within two to three days, we know the sea will become rough.”