Thursday, September 28, 2023

Who saves migrants in the Mediterranean?

Euronews Who saves migrants in the Mediterranean? 4 hours I lived on Humanity 1 for eleven days. The German non-governmental organization SOS Humanity invited me on their rescue ship - at a time when record numbers of migrants are trying to reach European shores. My job was to document a rescue operation up close. The stories of those who carry them out and those who escape. Motivation of the helpers There are highly qualified professionals from thirteen different countries on board the ship. What brings them on board? “I have been traveling between the borders since 2015, initially as a volunteer,” explains the Italian protection officer Sara. "After several years of experience in Greece on the border with Turkey, I felt the need to better understand the central Mediterranean border. As an anthropologist, I think it is important to take specific care of these people." Five days into our journey, we wake up and find ourselves on the deadliest migration route to Europe, the Central Mediterranean route. Two days later we discovered a boat in distress. The crew rescued 57 people, mostly from Bangladesh. They had left Libya the night before the rescue. Since 2014, over 22,000 people have died or gone missing trying to flee via the central Mediterranean route. This year, departures from Tunisia have increased sixfold compared to 2022. Arrivals in Italy have skyrocketed, but more people are also dying. “Since the beginning of the year, more than 2,000 people have drowned or gone missing in the Mediterranean, a number we have not seen since 2017,” says communications coordinator Camilla. SOS Humanity says an effective European search and rescue program in the central Mediterranean is urgently needed. They point out that rescue operations suffered another setback in January 2023. The Italian government has introduced a new code of conduct for NGOs. Civilian rescue ships are fined or detained if they conduct more than one rescue at a time and are often assigned a distant safe port for disembarkation. “NGO ships are sometimes sent to ports 1,400 or 1,600 kilometers away, which keeps us out of the operational area for days,” explains communications coordinator Camilla. We drove over 1,000 kilometers over four days from the rescue site to the safe port of Livorno. In Europe, discussions about migrants often revolve around numbers. How many arrive, how many die... For me, they were just people who carried a heavy burden. Some have been traveling for years to get to this point. Statistics show that only a small proportion of those arriving will manage to stay in Europe legally. Many are sent back. Humanity 1 is ready to set out again to rescue more migrants fleeing poverty, war and despair: a never-ending cycle.