2 November 2017

Africa: Central Mediterranean - 588 People Rescued While Unknown Number Are Presumed Drowned

press release

During grueling rescue operations yesterday in the central Mediterranean, a total of 588 people were saved from distressed boats, and an unknown number of people are missing and presumed drowned after their boat capsized, according to staff on the Aquarius, a search and rescue ship operated by the organizations Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and SOS MEDITERRANEE.

"The situation suddenly turned into a nightmare when one of three rubber boats overloaded with men, women, and young children collapsed and dozens of people fell into the sea," said Seif Khirfan, an MSF medical doctor on the Aquarius. "Our teams launched all available flotation devices, distributed life jackets, and pulled people from the water. We were able to revive a man in cardiac arrest who was then medically evacuated by helicopter to Italy. Although no bodies were recovered, we witnessed people submerged under the water."

Due to the worsening conditions on the Mediterranean as the season grows colder, there were multiple cases of mild to moderate hypothermia among those rescued. The medical team also treated people for injuries they had suffered while inside Libya, where refugees and migrants are exposed to alarming levels of violence and exploitation.

"One man had an open fracture and dislocation of his left ankle which was one month old," Dr. Khirfan said. "He told me he sustained the injury trying to escape gunfire in Libya. Another man had his arm broken a week earlier while arbitrarily detained in Libya."

The vast majority of people rescued in the Mediterranean by MSF have traveled through Libya, and they tell of widespread abuse at the hands of smugglers, armed groups, and militias. The abuses reported include being subjected to violence (including sexual violence), arbitrary detention in inhumane conditions, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, financial exploitation, and forced labor.

"People do not undertake this journey lightly," said Luca Salerno, MSF's coordinator on the Aquarius. "People do not risk their own lives and the lives of their children if there are easier options available to them."

MSF urges governments to ensure safe and legal channels for people seeking asylum.

"The European Union and individual member states need to take urgent action to provide safe and legal channels for people to seek asylum, create legal migration pathways, and make wider use of legal entry schemes so that desperate people are not forced to risk their lives on the Mediterranean," Salerno said.


Nairobi hosts the first Africa Environment Partnership Platform (AEPP)

The theme for the AEPP meeting was “50 years of Environmental Governance and Sustainability in Africa”,… Read more »

See What Everyone is Watching

Copyright © 2017 Medecins Sans Frontieres. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 600 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.