If you had the choice to save a life, would you? The importance of search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean

Posted On: 7 November 2019

Listen: Audio Recording of Trinity Event

Media Release, 7 November 2019

Today, Thursday 7 November, and tomorrow, crew members from four search and rescue (SAR) NGO boats carrying out lifesaving missions at sea are in Dublin for a number of public and political engagements. The purpose of the visit is to highlight the ongoing need for safe, legal pathways to protection, solidarity mechanisms between EU Member states, and humanitarian responses in the Mediterranean. People working with Open Arms, Refugee Rescue, Sea-Watch and Médecins Sans Frontières will share their experiences and those of the people they have rescued in a unique and timely series of events.

Aoife Ní Mhurchú, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF):

“At sea and in Libya I have treated people who have borne the brunt of Europe’s migration policies. I have seen people drown, I have seen people’s scars and gunshot wounds and I have heard people’s stories of the most unimaginable horror about their appaling treatment in places of captivity in Libya.”

“With severe overcrowding, interrupted access to food and water, little natural daylight, no access to the outdoors, no running water and horrendous sanitation conditions including open defecation in some cells, detained people are controlled by subjugation, violence, and sheer terror. This is the system of containment in Libya which is supported, funded and enforced by EU policies, by the tax payers of Europe, by yourself and myself.”

Gerard Canals, Chief of Mission, Open Arms:

“As the father of a small child, the Search and Rescue work we do can be emotionally even more difficult. I’ve been in situations where we’re navigating through floating bodies, some the age and size of my daughter, trying to find survivors. Those are the memories I’ll never be able to forget- their small lifeless bodies, like dolls in the water. No parent makes the sea journey, with all of its risks, unless they are truly desperate”.

Joby Fox, Refugee Rescue Co-Founder:

“Refugee Rescue was born out of the need to respond to human tragedy. Where there is need for SAR on the North coast of Lesbos we will be there to meet it. As a human being I’ve held out a hand to another and helped them for a moment. That’s what life is all about… It’s about action, lateral thinking, helping, being human and looking after each other. Once you’re exposed to something like this you feel a responsibility to human beings, and ultimately that’s what it is about. I am a human being, they are human beings, and they need me. Children never asked for this so that’s my motivation… it’s simple.”

Capt. Arturo Centore, Sea-Watch:

“We turn our eyes to the stars, searching for new worlds, planets, lives…but then we fail to help our neighbours, our fellow humans in need, letting them drown, starve, die behind our shoulders. As citizens of the world we have the universal duty to act.”

Ismail, Refugee, Student:

“We were told the journey was only three or four hours, but we were in the sea a long, long time with only the moon. When people saw a ship in the distance everybody stood up shouting, ‘please, help us’. Then they fell inside the sea. They drowned. Sometimes I close my eyes and think of that moment, it’s very sad and stressful.”

“I ask the EU; please do not let this continue to happen.”

ENDS

 

Notes

Listen: Audio Recording of Trinity Event

The visiting delegates will be meeting with Minister Simon Coveney; Dublin City Councillors; Irish Trade Unions; As well as presenting in the AV Room at Dáil Éireann and a public event in Trinity College Dublin on Friday evening.

Last week the European Parliament voted against a motion supporting search and rescue in the Mediterranean.  Since 2014, 18,898 deaths were registered in the Mediterranean alone.  It continues to be the most dangerous crossing in the world.

The international humanitarian medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), is calling on European governments to

  • End prolonged, unnecessary & inhumane stand offs at sea
  • End political and material support for the Libyan coastguard that results in people being returned to Libya, which is not a safe place
  • Resume dedicated and proactive search and rescue operations to boost much needed search and rescue capacity to stop people drowning at sea.

In 2019, for every 18 people that reach Europe, 1 will die trying to cross the Central Mediterranean. Meanwhile, nearly 8,000 others have been intercepted by the Libyan coastguard and forcibly returned to Libya (UNHCR/IOM).

1,663 people have been evacuated/resettled out of Libya. Yet for every 1 person evacuated or resettled out of Libya, nearly five times as many are forcibly returned by Libyan coast guard. (UNHCR Libya update)

With 4,500 people trapped in detention centres in Libya (UNHCR) and more being forcibly returned each day, evacuation and resettlement places will continue to be outstripped by the needs.