Rescuers again save thousands of boat refugees

There are incidents currently taking place in the Mediterranean that private rescue organisations have never experienced quite like that: within 48 hours they saved thousands of people from distress. Due to the good weather, numbers are likely to increase.

Within 48 hours, private rescue organisations in the Mediterranean have rescued several thousand people from extremely overcrowded boats. Just on Saturday (15.4.17), the NGOs Jugend rettet, MOAS and Sea-Eye located about 3,000 refugees and other migrants on rubber and wooden boats at about 20 nautical miles off the Libyan coast, Kai Kaltegärtner, the skipper of the Jugend rettet ship Iuventa told the German press agency.

Already on Friday, about 2,000 people had been rescued by several NGOs from rubber boats. “We haven’t experienced anything like this before,” Kaltegärtner said. “We fear that there will be further boats by sunrise.” The weather at sea is very good at the moment. For a while the Iuventa had to help hundreds of people, who had to remain on unstable boats, because the capacity of the Iuventa was exhausted. Among others, a German navy ship supported the NGOs by taking refugees and migrants on board to take them to dry land.

At first it was not clear whether anyone had died. “All organisations have reached their limits,” said Pauline Schmidt, Iuventa spokesperson. The NGOs are waiting for the MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) in Rome to send ships to take the rescued people to dry land. “We depend on the MRCC sending us a ship. Otherwise we cannot continue to rescue as we become incapacitated or forced to take the people to dry land ourselves and to leave the rescue area entirely uncovered,” Schmidt said.

During the rescue operation on Friday, one man could only be recovered dead from one of the rubber boats. A spokesperson of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported on Twitter about another incident: fishermen pulled 101 people off a sinking boat, five drowned. When exactly this happened is not clear. On Saturday a further boat was in distress between Greece and Italy.

According to the IOM, almost 800 people have already died in the Mediterranean since the beginning of this year. Traffickers in Libya send refugees and migrants out to sea in unseaworthy boats.

Source: Deutsche Welle, Germany

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