[WATCH] Update 2 | Italian NGO ship rescues 49 migrants, heading to Lampedusa

The ship Mare Jonio, which belongs to Italian organisation Mediterranea, has rescued migrants on board a dinghy off the Libyan coast

The Mare Jonio rescued the migrants some 42 miles off the Libyan coast (Photo: Mediterranea)
The Mare Jonio rescued the migrants some 42 miles off the Libyan coast (Photo: Mediterranea)

Updated at 9:10am

An Italian-flagged ship with 49 migrants on board is making its way towards Lampedusa after carrying out a rescue operation 42 miles off the Libyan coast.

The ship, Mare Jonio, belongs to Italian NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans, picked up the migrants from a dinghy that was taking in water.

The ship has asked Italy to provide a port of safety to disembark the rescued migrants, insisting that returning them to Libya was not an option. Libya is considered by the UN as an unsafe place.

Italy deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini insisted on Twitter that his country’s port “were and will remain closed” to NGO rescue vessels.

The NGO said that the Libyan coastguard arrived when the rescue was already underway. It is understood the rescue took place off the Libyan city of Zuara in the Libyan search and rescue area.

According to ship tracking website Vessel Finder, the Mare Jonio was heading north towards Lampedusa at around 10.30pm on Monday.

No authorisation to disembark

On Tuesday morning, the Italian coast guard indicated to the Mare Jonio an anchor point close to the island of Lampedusa to protect itself from bad weather. However, the landing of the migrants has not been authorised.

Amnesty International Italia, in the meantime, called for the immediate disembarkation of the 49 migrants. "The cynical tug of war with the skin of human beings is not to be repeated," it said in a tweet.

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