Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The Open Arms rescue ship carrying over 300 migrants who were lifted last week from barges in Libyan waters arrived Friday in the Algeciras port in Spain.
The ship arrived after Spain granted permission for the non-government organization Proactiva Open Arms to transport the migrants, El Pais newspaper reported.
"We have navigated 1,100 miles in winter, with over 300 people on the boat deck. They are very tired. We had to do miracles to keep warm and feed so many people during eight days," organization director Oscar Camps said.
Camps tweeted Thursday night that Algeciras "was the only safe port available in the Mediterranean."
Hours earlier, Camps tweeted Christmas wishes to port authorities on behalf of children on board the ship.
Deaths of African migrants in this area of the Mediterranean Sea are on the rise, according to international organizations. Italy and Malta have received large inflows of refugees for several years since the start of the decade but have since adopted much stricter policies.
A total 111,558 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea in 2018 through December 16, the International Organization for Migration said earlier this month.
This is the fifth straight year that the arrival of irregular migrants and refugees to Europe topped 100,000, the organization said.
A total 2,217 people have died this year crossing the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean continues to account for most migrant deaths recorded globally.
Camps said Open Arms will continue to rescue people along the north African coast, El Pais reported.
"Either you save a life or silence a death," Camps tweeted.
Libya is enduring ongoing conflict that started in 2011 when protests led to civil war and a North Atlantic Treaty Organization intervention, in turn leading to the capture and killing of Moammar Gaddafi, who had ruled the country since 1969.