The Malta Independent 20 May 2024, Monday
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Sea-Watch 3 rescues 47 people from drowning

Saturday, 19 January 2019, 17:09 Last update: about 6 years ago

On Saturday, the Sea-Watch 3 as part of the #united4med alliance saved 47 people from drowning, including eight unaccompanied minors, the NGO said.

Less than 24 hours earlier, over 100 shipwrecked people died or went missing according to the only three survivors rescued by the Italian Navy, Sea-Watch said in a statement.

The 47 people were rescued off a rubber boat in distress in international waters north of Zuwara, Libya. They are now safely on board the Sea-Watch 3, where they receive medical care.


Kim Heaton-Heather, Head of Operations on Sea-Watch 3: "We're incredibly glad we found them in time. With a European Union that neither wants to rescue nor cooperate, it is the few civilian rescuers doing their best in saving lives and defending human rights at sea."

Yesterday evening, their reconnaissance aircraft Moonbird overheard communication about a distress case with a half-sunken boat and people in the water. "MRCC Italy refused to give Sea-Watch information about the case, claiming MRCC Tripoli to be responsible, which in turn was not able or willing to communicate. The only three survivors told members of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that they had been at sea without assistance for more than three hours, before the intervention of an Italian Navy plane. They left Libya with 120 people on board, they explained, meaning that all but three are assumed dead or missing," Sea-Watch said.

"Had we not overheard this radio message, probably no one would have ever heard of this tragedy. When we arrived at the position and performed search patterns, we only found 2 life rafts, deployed earlier by an Italian aircraft. It shows once more that the European policy of looking away kills, and the so-called Libyan coastguard is neither willing nor able to carry out rescue operations. We need more rescue operations, not less, and we need a civilian eye that closely monitors the European Union and its allies."

Having previously been hindered from entering a safe port for 19 days after rescuing 32 people in December, Sea-Watch is once again urging for a quick solution according to international law: "The moral bankruptcy of denying people their fundamental rights by keeping them hostage at sea for 19 days must not be repeated. Europe is not only letting people drown, it is actively hindering those willing to help. This deadly policy must be ended now, we don't have the time to wait for European leaders carrying out their conflicts on the back of people in need." 

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