The crew of the rescue boat Geo Barents approach on a dinghy a fishing boat in the international waters off the coast of Libya Tuesday, April 4, 2023. Some 440 refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Somalia, and Sri Lanka were taken on board the Geo Barents. AP
The boat was carrying nationals from Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia and Sri Lanka, a spokeswoman for the MSF told Reuters on Wednesday.
The rescued group had set off from eastern Libya, near Benghazi, on Saturday.
Rescue efforts took a total of 11 hours due to the weather conditions.
The GeoBarents rescue boat was originally headed north for shelter when it received a distress signal from Alarm Phone, an independent support agency for people crossing the Mediterranean Sea to the European Union.
The boat in distress had already run out of fuel and was drifting in unstable waters, practically in the eye of a storm, the MSF added.
Eight women and 30 children were among the rescued, MSF added.
Following the rescue, survivors reported being at sea for more than four days, the last two without food and water, the MSF noted.
Of the 440 irregular migrants rescued, 100 will be transshipped to an Italian naval vessel off the coast of Sicily, while the remaining 339 will be taken to the southeastern Italian port of Brindisi.
Italy has seen a surge in sea migration from North Africa, with more than 28,000 arrivals this year, compared to around 6,800 in the same period of 2022, according to Reuters.
Since 2016, Egypt has taken steps to combat the smuggling of migrants.
These steps include passing a law that criminalises all forms of migrant smuggling.
The law sentences smugglers and their accomplices to up to 5 years in prison and imposes hefty fines ranging from EGP 200,000 to EGP 500,000.
Egypt toughened the law in 2022 by adding an additional fine equivalent to the value of the amount the smugglers or their accomplices profited from their crime.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi had stressed in a press conference with Danish Prime Minister in March 2022 that his country takes the issue of irregular migration very seriously.
"No boat or citizen has crossed from Egypt’s maritime border to Europe since September 2016," the president added.
The provision of job opportunities for African nationals will curb those who illegally migrate to Europe searching for better financial prospects, El-Sisi had asserted.