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No lives lost during difficult refugee rescue mission in the Mediterranean

Sea-Watch 3 saves 412 lives in waters off the coast of Libya in several operations since Sunday

NO LIVES were lost during a difficult refugee rescue mission in the central Mediterranean today when a heavily overcrowded boat split in half, sending some into the water.

Fortunately the well-trained crew of the Sea-Watch 3 rescue ship was able to provide the roughly 40 people on the rubber boat with life jackets before their boat began to sink.

Shortly after the 40 were brought on board the Sea-Watch 3, joining 322 others the crew saved in several operations since yesterday morning, the ship rescued about 50 more from another boat in distress.

“With a total of 90 people from this afternoon’s two rescues, there are now a total of 412 rescued people onboard Sea-Watch 3, many of whom are minors and children,” Sea-Watch said in a statement today.

“The people are being cared for and medically attended to by the crew of Sea-Watch 3. Many of those rescued have chemical burns from the highly corrosive mixture of petrol and saltwater that accumulates in the boats.”

The ship’s head of mission Philipp Hahn said the rescues highlight the “catastrophic rescue gap that European states have created at the world’s deadliest border.”

“Within a few hours, we were able to rescue hundreds of people, but for many, any help comes too late,” Mr Hahn said.

“Those who place the protection of borders higher than the protection of human life share the responsibility for every death in the Mediterranean.”

The activist-run refugee distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone warned today that it was aware of hundreds of people in distress off the Libyan coast.

Alarm Phone said this morning that it had lost contact with approximately 75 people in a rubber boat off the coast from Garabulli, Tripoli.

“The so-called Libyan Coastguard didn’t find and rescue them. We don’t demand to equip them better or to pay [them] more, but to abolish them,” the organisation said.

“We don’t want EU-serving militias to pullback people. We want freedom of movement for all!”

Two more NGO ships are heading towards the central Mediterranean. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced on social media today that the crew on board its ship, the Geo Barents, are carrying out drills and exercises as they head towards the Libyan SAR zone.

The Aita Mari, the rescue ship operated by Basque NGO Humanitarian Maritime Rescue (SMH), left for the Mediterranean on Saturday, having been kept in port since June after the Spanish and Italian port authorities placed the ship in bureaucratic purgatory.

Speaking to The Civil Fleet Podcast on an as yet unpublished episode, SMH chairman Iñigo Mijangos said the Aita Maria was forced to comply with safety regulations that do not apply to its class of ship.

“All this [bureaucracy] means time. This is the only objective of this strategy; it is just to delay [us], to keep the ship in port as long as possible.”

The episode with Iñigo Mijangos will be published later this week.

Meanwhile, refugees and migrants stuck in Libya continued their demonstration outside the UNHCR day care centre in Tripoli for the 17th day today, demanding to be evacuated from the country.

Last week, a UN report warned that migrants and refugees in Libya are “systematically subjected to a litany of abuses” from the moment they enter the country, and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) called on the international community to suspend all agreements with the Libyan government until it complies with international human rights laws.

Top image shows the rubber boat splitting as Sea-Watch carries out its rescue operation [Pic: Sea Watch]

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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