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43 rescued following a weekend of refugee pushbacks to Libya

AN NGO rescue ship saved the lives of 43 people stranded in the Mediterranean today after twice witnessing the EU-supported Libyan coastguard intercept refugee boats over the weekend.

The Mare Jonio, a rescue ship operated by Italian non-governmental organisation Mediterranea Saving Humans, picked up the refugees 40 miles north of the Libyan coast following an eventful few days.

After the Star had gone to press on Friday evening, the Mare Jonio reported that it was unable to reach a refugee dinghy carrying about 95 people, including a baby born onboard, before the Libyan coastguard intercepted their vessel and returned them to the war-torn country.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) later reported that 93 migrants were returned to al-Khums.

“Among them was a woman who gave birth on the rubber dinghy,” the IOM said in a tweet on Saturday morning.

“Migrants reported to IOM staff that six people have died along the journey.”

On Sunday evening, Mediterranea Saving Humans members posted a video on social media of a Libyan patrol boat near their ship as it was searching for stranded refugees that morning.

“The Mare Jonio has been approached several times by a patrol boat of the so-called Libyan coastguard who said they’re looking for a boat with migrants on board,” the organisation’s post read.

“The [coastguard] repeatedly warned the Mare Jonio to change course and move away from that stretch of sea, despite the fact that we offered to help with our qualified health personnel on board.

“All this makes us fear that the operations by the [coastguard] could have had serious consequences for the boat in difficulty and for the people who were on board.”

Meanwhile, SOS Mediterranee’s ship the Ocean Viking is still waiting for Italy or Malta to respond to its calls for a place of safety for 118 people on board who were rescued in two operations last Thursday.

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