At least 17 people drown off the coast of Tunisia having left Libya two days ago
THE INTERNATIONAL medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is to resume search-and-rescue operations in the central Mediterranean aboard a new ship.
Since 2015, MSF has sent medical crews to work onboard seven NGO refugee rescue ships, most recently with German organisation Sea Watch, and assisted more than 81,000 people adrift at sea.
Today, however, the organisation announced that it has chartered its own ship, the Geo Barents, and will be setting sail for the central Mediterranean soon.
“Our return to sea is the direct result of Europe’s reckless policies of non-assistance at sea which are condemning people to die,” MSF’s operations manager for search and rescue Ellen van der Valden said.
“Over the years, European governments have progressively disengaged from proactive search and rescue in the central Mediterranean, have failed to assist people in danger and have deliberately hindered, if not criminalised, the much-needed work of search and rescue NGOs.
“These policies have abandoned thousands of men, women and children to drift at sea and to drown on Europe’s southern border.”
“We will not stay silent in the face of this manmade disaster. EU support to the business of suffering should stop immediately.
“European member states must ensure a dedicated proactive state-led search and rescue mechanism is urgently relaunched in the central Mediterranean.”
International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokeswomen Safa Msehli announced on Twitter this afternoon that at least 17 people had drowned off the Tunisian coast today after having departed from Zwara, Libya, two days ago.
Today’s refugee shipwreck is the third since 130 people drowned on April 23.
Since then, around 2,000 people have made it to European islands almost completely unaided by the authorities and, according to the IOM figures, about 1,800 others have been intercepted by the EU-supported Libyan Coastguard.
The emergency hotline organisation Alarm Phone alerted the authorities to a rubber boat taking on water off the coast of Libya with about 100 people on board this morning.
“We lost contact [with] the ~100 people in distress” Alarm Phone said this afternoon.
“The last time we spoke to them the situation was still dramatic. We hope that help is coming in time and all of them will survive!”
Meanwhile the Sea Eye 4, a vessel owned and operated by German organisation Sea Eye, is the only dedicated search-and-rescue ship heading to the central Mediterranean as hundreds of people continue to flee Libyan shores in the hopes of reaching safety in Europe.