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GNA agrees to receive over 200 illegal migrants rescued in Mediterranean

Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) has agreed to receive more than 200 illegal migrants in Tripoli upon the request of Ocean Viking vessel which has rescued them earlier this week in the Mediterranean Sea, according to sources in the Italian Interior Ministry.

The Libyan coastguard gave their permission to the cargo vessel to land the migrants in Tripoli on Wednesday.

According to Doctors Without Borders, the Ocean Viking has rescued 81 people from an unfit rubber boat on Sunday, bringing the total of rescued migrants on its board to 251 people following three rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast.

The Norwegian-flagged ship had already picked up 85 migrants on Friday and another 80 on Saturday during its first two rescue missions, before Sunday’s operation. The 69-meter (226-foot) cargo ship has 31 crew members and can comfortably hold up to 200 migrants.

Earlier, the ship’s operations coordinator Nicholas Romaniuk said they could not contact Libya’s coastguard for the past five days. It was unclear whether this has something to do with the Eid al-Adha holiday, which started on Sunday. It has been said that the holiday may reduce the presence of authorities patrolling Libyan beaches.

It comes after Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had reiterated his insistence on an “absolute prohibition” of either the Ocean Viking or the Open Arms vessel to enter Italian territorial waters.

Last week, Italy announced fines of up to €1 million for ships carrying unauthorized migrants that try to dock in Italian ports without permission. The country has ordered the seizure of such ships and NGO skippers to be arrested if they fail to obey the orders of police or navy ships.

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