Dozens of migrants drifting in the Mediterranean on a blue wooden boat were rescued Thursday by activists on a ship chartered by a French charity, an AFP reporter on board said.
The Ocean Viking -- chartered by French aid group SOS-Mediterranee -- rescued 51 people in total, including one woman and five children, mainly of Pakistani and Eritrean nationality.
They were found huddled together on a boat whose two engines had stopped working, 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa located between Malta and Tunisia.
The rescue operation took place at the crossroads between the Italian and Maltese search and rescue zones, SOS-Mediterranee said, adding: "We have asked the authorities of both countries for a safe place to disembark." The Ocean Viking set sail again on Monday after three months of inactivity due to the coronavirus crisis.
On board, the crew took the migrants' temperature and gave them a mask, and one person running a temperature was quarantined as a precaution, the AFP reporter said.
The rescued migrants were visibly relieved to leave behind the precarious boat. In the midst of a pile of shoes, phone chargers, plastic bags, biscuits and vomit, there was only one lifejacket in sight, the correspondent added.
More than 100,000 migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean last year with more than 1,200 dying in the attempt, according to the UN's International Organization for Migration.
The arrival of summer and more favourable conditions at sea may lead to an increase of attempts to cross the Mediterranean with the hope of arriving in Europe.