Luxury Cruise Ship Rescues 111 Migrants, Including 33 Children, After Their Vessel Started Sinking

A luxury cruise ship rescued more than 100 migrants from the Mediterranean Sea this weekend, after their boat got into difficulty off the Greek coast.

The 11-deck Marella Discovery ship, operated by Marella Cruises, came across the struggling migrants on Saturday evening around 40 nautical miles from Greece's Peloponnese peninsula, Deutsche Welle reported.

Of the 111 migrants rescued from the water, 33 were children. Greek coast guard officials did not specify where the migrants were from nor from which country their boat departed. The rescued travelers were taken to the Greek port of Kalamata and two people—believed to be the operators of the migrant boat—were arrested.

The migrants rescued Saturday are just some of the tens of thousands of people who have attempted to reach European shores so far this year. The number of migrants attempting to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean has fallen significantly since its 2015 peak, when more than 1 million made the crossing.

However, boatloads of desperate people still set sail multiple times each week. More than 24,000 migrants have tried to cross the Mediterranean already this year. Many of those undertaking sea crossings do so from Libya, which remains chaotic and largely lawless following the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gadaffi in 2011.

Southern European nations bear the brunt of the new arrivals. Italy, Spain and Greece in particular receive the migrants, whether they make it across the sea or are collected by rescue ships and brought to European ports.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the number of refugees coming to Europe across the Mediterranean.

Refugees Europe Mediterranean Statista
The number of refugees coming to Europe across the Mediterranean. Statista

The pressure on southern and eastern European nations has opened rifts between European Union member states, and authorities in the south are increasingly refusing to allow migrant rescue ships to dock at their ports.

In Italy in particular, the issue has helped the rise of anti-establishment anti-immigration parties, the leaders of which have even vowed to deport migrants already accepted into the country.

Despite such deterrence, migrants still risk the perilous journey. Around 160,000 people made the crossing last year, but an average of six migrants die each day in the Mediterranean, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

So far this year, at least 426 men, women and children have died during the crossing, the French medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says. The true number is likely to be even higher.

MSF is one of the organizations that has conducted rescue missions in the Mediterranean. On Sunday, the body said it would resume rescues in collaboration with the SOS Mediterranee NGO. The two groups operate the 226-foot Ocean Viking ship.

MSF and SOS Mediterranee previously suspended their work in December under pressure from European governments opposed to the mission, Deutsche Welle said.

Other migrant boat activists have also fallen foul of European nations, for example German woman Carola Rackete who was accused of trying to sink a police boat using her Sea-Watch 3 vessel after rescuing 53 migrants off the Libyan coast in June.

Migration, Europe, rescue, cruise ship
A group of migrants is transferred from a rescued boat onto the Sea Watch 3 rescue ship during an operation off Libya's coast on January 19, 2019. FEDERICO SCOPPA/AFP/Getty

This article was updated to include an infographic.