The rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 departed for the Central Mediterranean on 10 October. In 7 rescue operations in the search and rescue zone off the Libyan coast, the crew has rescued over 400 people from distress at sea. They were supported by Sea-Watch’s reconnaissance aircraft Seabird.
On Sunday morning, 17 October 2021, the crew of Sea-Watch 3 was able to safely bring 66 people aboard the ship from an overcrowded wooden boat in a first rescue operation after authorities and the ship were informed of a distress at sea by the organisation Alarmphone. Only a short time later, the crew of the Sea-Watch reconnaissance aircraft Seabird sighted another boat in distress. The 54 people on the unseaworthy rubber boat, including two pregnant women, were also brought safely onboard the Sea-Watch 3.
In the early morning hours of October 18, 2021, the crew sighted another distress case on their radar; 73 people were rescued from a wooden boat. Two other rubber boats in distress were spotted by the crew through binoculars. The 70 and 59 people were also brought safely onboard the Sea-Watch 3 in two further rescue operations.
In the early afternoon of today, Monday, our reconnaissance aircraft sighted another boat in distress. After the boat lost air, was in serious danger of sinking, and people fell into the water, they were all rescued in a difficult rescue and brought safely aboard our ship. The same applies to the passengers of a seventh boat in distress, which our crew discovered during the rescue operation.
With a total of 90 people from this afternoon’s two rescues, there are now 412 rescued people onboard Sea-Watch 3, many of whom are minors and children. The people are being cared for and medically attended to by the crew of Sea-Watch 3. Many of those rescued have chemical burns from the highly corrosive mixture of petrol and saltwater that accumulates in the boats.
‘Each of our missions highlights the catastrophic rescue gap that European states have created at the world’s deadliest border. Within a few hours, we were able to rescue hundreds of people, but for many, any help comes too late. Those who place the protection of borders higher than the protection of human life share the responsibility for every death in the Mediterranean,’ says Philipp Hahn, head of mission on board the Sea-Watch 3.
According to IOM, more than 1400 people have already drowned in the Mediterranean in 2021, although a high number of unreported cases has to be assumed. More than 25,000 people have been pulled back to Libya on behalf of Europe in violation of international law, where they are threatened with the most severe human rights violations. Yesterday alone, the crew of our Seabird reconnaissance aircraft witnessed two of these illegal pullbacks by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard.
Only last week, a groundbreaking verdict was passed in Italy: A captain of the merchant ship Asso Ventotto was sentenced to one year in prison for extraditing refugees. He had handed over rescued people to the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, which pulled them back to Libya in violation of international law.
‘We are very happy that we were able to contribute to the rescues of the Sea-Watch 3. However, we often have to observe human rights violations and illegal push- or pullbacks from the air. It is an important sign from the court that breaches of international law must not go unpunished, also by merchant ships.’ Felix Weiss, spokesperson Sea-Watch Airborne.