The Portuguese Air Force has rescued 150 migrants who were in the water or drifting after an overcrowded rubber vessel was shipwrecked this week in the central Mediterranean, the General Staff of the Armed Forces (EMGFA) said on Friday 7th September.

In a statement, EMGFA said that  the Portuguese Air Force’s P-3C aircraft on a mission in the central Mediterranean sea, as part of the “Sofhia” military operation of the European Union Naval Force, this week detected north of Libya , two boats overcrowded with migrants, one of them shipwrecked with hundreds of people on board.

The EMGFA points out that the Portuguese military dropped self-inflatable life rafts from the air, which has saved about 150 migrants who are in the water or adrift clinging to various floating objects.

The Libyan coastguard later collected them from the ship wreck.

According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces, the rubber vessels detected were sailing towards southern Europe, on one of the irregular immigration routes that still remain active.

Portugal regularly participates in the “Sofhia” military operation, which takes place in the central Mediterranean, and the Air Force is currently contributing with a detachment of 30 military personnel and a P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft from the 601-Lobos Squadron at Sigonella Air Force Base, in Italy.

The primary mission of the Portuguese military in this operation is to contribute to “the dismantling of the business model of smuggling and smuggling networks, as well as the fight against smuggling of fuels in the central Mediterranean.”

The aircraft of the Portuguese Air Force also carries out actions for the identification of ships in international databases, known or suspected of engaging in activities associated with the illegal and indirect financing of criminal organizations or associated with transnational terrorism, according to the EMGFA.

Portugal is also involved in this mission with four more military personnel, two at the Rome operation headquarters and two aboard the Admiral, the Italian navy ship “San Marco”.

The mission ends on September 30.