Tripoli — AT least 426 people have been killed attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, prompting the resumption of life-saving search and rescue operations.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is to resume the operations amid deteriorating conditions in Libya and despite sustained campaigns by European Union (EU) governments to stop humanitarian action at sea.
With a capacity to carry 200 survivors, the new ship, Ocean Viking, will sail to the Central Mediterranean Sea at the end of the month.
Libya, where most migrants and refugees access Europe from, is experiencing intense fighting in its capital Tripoli where 60 people have been killed and 100 000 displaced over the past three months.
Meanwhile, some European governments have come under criticism for supporting the Libyan Coastguard to forcibly return vulnerable people back to the North African country.
"Our presence at sea is to save lives. That is the bottom line. We will not be silent while vulnerable people suffer," said Sam Turner, MSF Head of Mission for Search and Rescue and Libya.
Turner accused European leaders of double standards after they condemned the bloodshed in Libya yet supporting the return of migrants and refugees trapped at sea back to the country.
"The hypocrisy of increased support for interceptions at sea, and forced return of people to these same places where these atrocities are happening, suggests these may be merely empty words of superficial sympathy," he said.
The Central Mediterranean crossing is rated the world's most deadly migration route.