Rescuers save 207 refugees stranded at sea for over a week

The three-month-old baby that was feared dead is alive, SOS Humanity confirms. The rescued now join 208 others aboard the Humanity 1, while over 500 more wait for dry land on two other NGO ships

ACTIVIST rescuers reached a refugee boat in the central Mediterranean last night that had been adrift for over a week since leaving Lebanon.

The search-and-rescue organisation SOS Humanity announced this morning that the crew aboard it’s ship, Humanity 1, had located the boat by 5.31pm local time (6.31 BST) and rescued everyone.

SOS Humanity confirmed that there were 207 people aboard the boat, not 250 as one of the passengers had estimated when speaking to the activist-run distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone on Monday.

The rescuers also discovered that there had been no casualties, including the three-month-old child that Alarm Phone feared was dead.

A baby is brought onto the Humanity 1 [Pic: Arez Ghaderi / SOS Humanity]

However, “the situation was extremely serious,” SOS Humanity’s human rights observer Mirka Schäfer said in a statement today.

“The people on board reported having been at sea for over a week and several days without food or drinking water. Among others, there were pregnant women and many children on the boat.”

No European maritime authority came to the 207’s aid when Alarm Phone alerted them to the distress case in Malta’s search-and-rescue zone on Monday.

Fortunately, the Humanity 1 — over 20 hours away from their last-known position and already carrying 208 survivors — changed course.

And when they got there, SOS Humanity said, the crew “received no information from the responsible Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre.”

The boat the 207 people were travelling on [Pic: Arez Ghaderi / SOS Humanity]

Camilla Kranzusch, the communications coordinator onboard the Humanity 1, told The Civil Fleet today that the rescued are suffering from sunburn, dehydration and exhaustion.

“They are very anxious after being scared they would lose their lives,” she said.

“On board now are an almost unbelievable number of 192 survivors under the age of 18. Among them are 64 children under 13 years of age, which are in an unstable condition.

“Diarrhea, colds, and dehydration are spreading fast in the limited space on board.

“The children are especially stressed and exhausted in this situation and are therefore not eating properly.

The Humanity 1’s crew help a child onto the ship [Pic: Arez Ghaderi / SOS Humanity]

“We have three babies on board, which are just one-and-half-months-old. Two of the mothers are in such a bad mental and physical condition, that they cannot breastfeed their babies.

“We can provide them with baby milk powder. But like other supplies, the milk powder is limited and will just last for a few days.

“The protection that these especially vulnerable groups need cannot be provided on a ship. By law, people rescued from distress at sea must be assigned a place of safety.

“Over the last week, we have asked the responsible authorities 13 times to provide us with a safe port. And we are still waiting.

“Some of the survivors have already been on board for eight days, and the tension on the ship is rising.

“The sea is not a safe place for these people, and we urge those responsible to provide these families, unaccompanied minors, women and men with immediate assistance.”

The Humanity 1 now carries over 415 survivors.

One of the rescued aboard the Sea-Eye 4 [Pic: Fiona Mischel / Sea-Eye]

Meanwhile, over 500 more refugees are still stuck on two NGO ships in the central Mediterranean days after their rescue.

“It’s high time the 129 refugees on board the Sea-Eye 4 were urgently given a safe haven,” Sea-Eye posted on social media today.

“More than half of them have been on our rescue ship for 12 days. 47 are unaccompanied minors. That means they are alone, without their fathers and mothers, or another responsible adult, in search of peace and security. Give them a safe haven, now.”

Of the 428 survivors on aboard the Sea-Watch 3, over 100 of them are children, and 68 of them are unaccompanied.

The ship’s head of operation, Jakob, said the crew has reached out to the juvenile court of Catania, on the Italian island of Sicily, to appeal for help.

“A ship cannot be a place of safety for vulnerable people,” he said in a video message posted by Sea-Watch.

“The youngest person on board is only three weeks old, which means that she spent a third of her lifetime waiting for a place of safety.

“This is crazy.

“To be rescued and to go to land is not a wish, nor a demand. It’s the people’s right.”

Finally, Alarm Phone warned today of more potential deaths in Malta’s search-and-rescue zone.

“We lost contact with the [about] 33 people on September 8, when the group was adrift only 37 nautical miles east of Malta. We have to assume that this boat shipwrecked,” the activist network said on social media this morning.

“Despite investigating the case, we could not find any report on a possible arrival in Italy or Malta, or a return to Libya.

“We fear that 33 lives were lost due to the non-assistance of Malta and other EU authorities. We send our condolences to families and friends of the disappeared.”

Published by Ben Cowles

Is a journalist and podcaster

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