FRANKFURT, Germany (AFP) — A German rescue ship was seeking a safe port on Tuesday after it saved 150 refugees from small boats in distress off the Libyan coast.
The nongovernmental vessel pulled 68 people from the Mediterranean Monday morning before picking up dozens more later, the group said in a statement.
Sea Eye — the only NGO running rescue operations since the coronavirus pandemic intensified in March — said it had received a message from Germany’s interior ministry Monday asking it “not to begin any voyages and recall ships already at sea.”
Also Monday, Italy and Malta “made clear to the (German) foreign ministry that they would not agree to rescued people disembarking” even if there was an agreement to share them among EU member states.
The NGO nevertheless appealed to Berlin to help it organize transport for the 150 refugees to Germany.
Underlining the risks it took to save the 150 souls, Sea Eye said crew of a boat flying the Libyan flag fired shots in the air during the rescue.
“I was very worried about my crew and the refugees when I heard the shots from the Libyans,” said Stefan Schuetz of Sea Eye.
While the ship, named Alan Kurdi, was able to make the rescue, it received a call about another refugee boat in distress around the same time.
An Italian ship arrived at the scene sooner but did not take anyone aboard, Sea Eye said.
“The Alan Kurdi evacuated the second boat and is now looking for a safe harbor with a total of 150 rescued people aboard,” said the group, adding that children and a pregnant woman were among those saved.
© Agence France-Presse