A charity rescuing migrants crossing the Mediterranean has had to evacuate a nine-month pregnant woman and her husband from their search and rescue ship and take them to Malta.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) are operating the Ocean Viking search and rescue ship in the area and they have 82 rescued people on board.
The couple were evacuated by helicopter as a precautionary measure, due to concerns about the potential for complications during delivery which would exceed medical capability onboard.
The vessel carried out its first rescue on Sunday when, after around 14 hours in the search and rescue zone, it rescued 50 people from a small rubber boat.
On Monday night, in stormy conditions, teams from MSF and SOS Mediterranee transferred 34 rescued people from a small yacht, Josefa, onto the Ocean Viking during a lightning storm.
Erkinalp Kesikli, MSF Project Coordinator onboard the Ocean Viking, said: “A nine-months pregnant woman and her husband, rescued at sea by the Ocean Viking on Sunday, have just been medically evacuated to Malta.
"Initial assessments indicated that they were doing well, but the latest examination today by the MSF midwife and medical team on board indicated that the mother has developed a serious medical complication which could put her and the baby at risk.
"While patrolling international waters, 80 nautical miles south of Lampedusa, the Ocean Viking contacted the closest maritime authorities to request an immediate medical evacuation."
She explained that Maltese authorities then allowed the family to be safely evacuated to their shores.
She said: "For most people it is probably unthinkable that a heavily pregnant woman, or a family with children might make the decision to risk their lives at sea rather than remaining in Libya.
"They tell our medics their skin was burned with melted plastic and they were beaten with wooden or metal sticks. These are just the physical injuries.
"There are even more horrific stories of abuse and exploitation that have left many with psychological wounds or trauma."
Ocean Viking has now made a landing request to the Italian and Maltese authorities after the Libyan Rescue Coordination Centre suggested they take the migrants back to Libya.