On board the Ocean Viking (AFP) - More than 110 migrants drifting in the Mediterranean on two makeshift boats were rescued on Thursday in separate operations by a ship chartered by a French charity, an AFP reporter onboard said.
"I love you all!" said one of the migrants when the Ocean Viking -- chartered by French aid group SOS-Mediterranee -- arrived at their boat in the waters around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa.
There were 67 people onboard their grey boat, mainly men and youths from Bangladesh and Morocco.
The boat had been spotted by the plane Moon Bird, of fellow migrant resue charity Sea-Watch, SOS-Mediterranee said.
Earlier in the day, the ship rescued 51 migrants on a blue wooden boat 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 Lampedusa, located between Malta and Tunisia.
That 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.
After both sets of migrants boarded, the ship's crew took their temperatures and gave them a mask.
One person on the blue boat was running a temperature and was quarantined as a precaution, the AFP reporter said.
The rescued migrants were visibly relieved to leave behind the precarious blue 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 said.
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.