Charity ship takes on 34 migrants off Libya, rejects port

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Migrants are transferred onto a dinghy from a 14-meter sailboat Josefa, run by the group Resqship, after being rescued near the Bouri Oil Fields, to be taken onto the humanitarian ship Ocean Viking, in the Mediterranean Sea, late Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Thirty-four migrants including women and the small child who were rescued by the German sailboat have been successfully taken aboard the humanitarian ship in international waters north of Libya despite a thunderstorm. (AP Photo/Renata Brito)

ABOARD THE OCEAN VIKING (AP) — A group of 34 migrants that included a pregnant woman and a small child safely moved during a thunderstorm from a charity-operated sailboat responsible for their rescue to a larger humanitarian ship in the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya.

Wrapped in shiny thermal blankets, 22 men, six women and a 1-year-old boy were transferred late Monday in international waters about 120 kilometers (75 miles) off the Libyan coast, near the Bouri offshore oil field.

The crew of a 14-meter-long sailboat operated by German charity Resqship picked up the migrants from a rubber boat with a broken engine earlier Monday.

The passengers were relocated in pouring rain to the Ocean Viking, a much bigger aid ship jointly run by Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee, after the sailboat declared a state of emergency.

One of the women was 8 months pregnant, according to a midwife on the Norwegian-flagged ship. An Associated Press journalist who also was on board witnessed the transfer.

The Ocean Viking is now carrying more than 80 migrants. The ship rescued 50 migrants over the weekend, including a pregnant woman at full term.

The ship has requested a safe place to disembark passengers. Libya’s rescue coordination center gave authorization to enter the Libyan port of Zawiyah. Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, said the Ocean Viking’s crew declined the assignment because the U.N. refugee agency doesn’t consider Libya safe.

“From our work providing medical care in Libyan detention centers, MSF know this all too well, having witnessed how people are trapped in inhumane conditions and vulnerable to abuse, often caught in the crossfire of ongoing conflict,” the group said in a statement.

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