Italian coastguard evacuated 49 and nearly 400 refugees and migrants remained stranded in the central Mediterranean after an overcrowded rescue vessel was emptied of all the rescued people on Saturday.
The German-flagged Louise Michel, sponsored by British street artist Banksy, made a mayday call late on Friday after rescuing more than 200 people, saying the 31-meter (101-foot) ship had become overcrowded and unable to move.
The crew said some of the survivors had fuel burns and had been at sea for days, and one of the boats the Louise Michel helped had at least one dead person on board. The survivors later said three people had died at sea before the arrival of the Louise Michel.
Throughout Saturday, 49 survivors were picked up from the Louise Michel by the Italian coastguard and taken to the island of Lampedusa.
“Given the danger of the situation, the coastguard sent a patrol boat to Lampedusa, which took in 49 people deemed the most fragile, including 32 women, 13 children, and four men,” the coastguard said in a statement.
The remaining survivors were transferred on Saturday to another charity vessel, the German-flagged Sea-Watch 4, jointly operated by the NGOs Sea Watch and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
“Louise Michel no longer has guests on board, but the struggle of the survivors is not over,” a Twitter account for the rescue ship said on Sunday. “Europe! SOLAS [international treaty on the safety of life at sea] obliges you to rescue at sea. Open your ports now!”
The Sea-Watch 4, which has a clinic onboard and is itself in search of a host port, sailed for almost 12 hours to help the Louise Michel.
The Sea-Watch 4 now has 353 rescued people, while another 27 are still on the Maersk Etienne. This Danish tanker rescued them on August 4 after a call for assistance from the small boat they were on.
“We’re providing an emergency response where the states are failing, and now we’re stranded at sea. We are being penalized for filing the gap that the EU governments have left at the world’s deadliest maritime border,” Hannah Wallace Bowman, MSF’s field communications manager on board the Sea-Watch 4, told Al Jazeera.