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Europe ignored refugee rescuers’ Mayday calls, activists say

110 people are now cramped aboard the Astral after their boat capsized. With no food or water, the ship sails for Lampedusa

THE AUTHORITIES ignored Mayday calls sent by two activist-run refugee rescue ships in the Mediterranean Sea last night as they struggled in the dark to pull 110 people from the water.

Two sailing ships, the Astral and Nadir, located an overcrowded wooden boat close to Tunisia‘s territorial waters and Malta‘s search-and-rescue zone on Tuesday evening.

The crews handed out life jackets to the survivors and waited on the Italian, Maltese and Tunisian authorities to assist them.

As the weather worsened, the wooden boat — which had already taken on water — became increasingly unstable until it eventually capsized, plunging many of its passengers into the waves

Fortunately, the Nadir and Astral crews were able to save everyone and place them in life rafts.

Then, this morning, the Tunisian coastguards arrived on scene. ResQship, the German organisation that runs the Nadir, explained what happened next.

“The crews were informed that the Tunisian authorities were coming to take over the people.

“After they arrived, panic set among the survivors. They refused to board the coastguard vessel and repeatedly jumped into the water.

“As a result, the Tunisian authorities gave instructions to the crews of both sailing vessels to take the people on board.

“All survivors were taken to the Astral with the help of the Nadir’s crew. The Astral is now on its way towards Lampedusa. The Nadir is accompanying them.

“Once again, it has been shown [that] Europe cannot be relied upon for sea rescue in the central Mediterranean. We do not want to imagine the catastrophe that would have happened today without the presence of the Nadir and the Astral.”

In a video message posted by the Astral’s operators Open Arms, SAR coordinator Gerard Canals said: “Everyone is on board the Astral by orders of the Tunisian navy. And now we need a safe port to disembark them.

“We need the authorities to act immediately and to provide a safe port. The weather will deteriorate very soon and we have no space, food or water to provide to all the people we have on board.”

Meanwhile, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) confirmed another boat sank off the coast of Tunisia this morning.

The IOM said the boat set sail from Zouara, Libya, and that at least 76 people are missing.

Elsewhere, the Ocean Viking continued sailing off the coast of the Italian island of Sicily today. The ship is home to 296 rescued men, women and children, its operators SOS Mediterranee said.

“Many are feeling cared for after a long time, receiving assistance and medical care for the first time after months and years in Libya.

“But a ship is a temporary shelter. They all need to disembark swiftly and finally feel safe.”

UPDATE: May 26, 2022:

The Astral reached the Italian island of Lampedusa late on Wednesday night and disembarked the rescued there.

Following the disembarkation, the distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone said: “We hope that everyone survived the escape from Libya.

“Again, only thanks to the civil fleet were they rescued. Everyone must have the freedom to move – only then will the dying at sea end.”

Top picture shows the refugees’ boat as it capsized last night [Pic: Oscar Camps / Open Arms]

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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