Maggie, 31, has been actively engaged against fortress Europe for years. She studies Arabic in Tunisia and is one of the founders of the Watch the Med Alarmphone. When during her shifts on the Alarmphone she has been in contact with people in distress, she longed for nothing more than a ship or a helicopter to rush to help them. She has been on several missions on the IUVENTA on the Central Mediterranean. Now she’s with Sea-Watch as Tactical Coordinator on the Moonbird and flew her first mission yesterday.
I was really excited when we started. This was my first time flying with the Moonbird in this position – as head of mission. I already accompanied two missions before that, but during those I just sat in the back and had no responsibility. This time, it was so exciting to know: today I will have to do all the communication and make the decisions for the routes.
When we arrived at the airport and got ready for the next mission, I called the MRCC Rome and they already had 3 cases for us, directly pointing out that two are taken care of by the Libyans and the other one by Open Arms, so we decided to fly over them and look for more boats in distress.
At approximately 65-70 nm (120-130 km) offshore, when we began to descend, but were still too high to really be able to have a clear sight, I already spotted something that appeared like a trace of a boat in the water. Because of the high waves, I couldn’t know for sure whether it was just a white crest of the waves. Either way I asked Rune, our pilot of HPI, to fly over it once again, and we did find a grey rubber boat indeed! Due to its color, it was nearly invisible on the water, we were extremely lucky to have found them! Our ALO (Air Liaison Officer) immediately informed the MRCC and I reported the position of the boat to the Open Arms. We were surprised to find a boat that far out there. This area is not searched normally because most boats don’t get that far.
So we flew the area in a West-East search pattern to see if others had started with them. We did not find any more boats. On the way back we wanted to look out again for the boat already sighted; but there was no sign of it. We contacted another big tanker nearby, but they did not see it on the radar either. They were already waiting for instructions from the so-called Libyan Coast Guard (he had received instructions from the MRCC Rome to wait on instructions from the LYCG) to see if they should search for it.
Our plan was to continue our search pattern when we got a message from our ALO: The MRCC Rome wants us to look very far east at a position where there are two boats. We found the first one very quickly, but not the second one, not even after a long search. Just at the moment when our fuel ran short, we received the information that the engine of the latter boat had been out of order for a long time, that it was only drifting now and that it was generally not in a good condition anymore. We had already searched most of the area at the time, with no success. We had to go back to Malta.
The moment we landed in Malta, we received word that the Open Arms was being threatened by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard in the midst of their rescue mission. All day, Rune and I were worried, waiting for news. It has been a long day and a long night. No gasp of relief yet. Because Open Arms still cannot bring the 218 rescued people to safety in a port.
It is always shocking to see what dangerous routes people have to resort to, as the EU practically denies them legal and safe escape routes. And rather pays Libyan militia money instead of providing safe havens for people in desperate need of it.
How is it possible that human lives in Europe are put at risk so recklessly?