By Iris van Deinse
“I hope Europe will wipe away my tears,” says 24-year-old Juliet from Nigeria. She fled her country in fear after her mother, father and sister were killed. “I could only survive by running away.”
Now, she’s on board the Responder, the Red Cross’s search and rescue boat in the Mediterranean.
Juliet fled Nigeria and headed towards Libya. She spent four months in the desert without food, water, shelter or proper clothes.
“I walked all the way to Libya without shoes,” she explains. Like many of the people on board the dangerous rubber dinghy she was travelling in, Juliet lost the few clothes she had with her during the terrifying journey at sea. A group of men rescued from the same boat were brought aboard the Responder wearing nothing but their underwear.
Deaths at sea
Juliet was put on a crowded dinghy to cross the southern Mediterranean. After five hours of drifting, it capsized.
“We had no life jackets and at that moment, there was no rescue ship nearby. I saw people drowning, kids drowning. Nothing is more terrible than a journey like this. I never felt so bad,” Juliet says.
Luckily, another rescue vessel managed to save Juliet and some of her fellow passengers. She was been transferred to the Responder together with 351 other people from separate rescues. Among them were 34 women and three young children. Six people lost family members during the attempted sea crossing. The mother of a toddler drowned.
Shock and dehydration
Everyone on the Responder was suffering varying degrees of dehydrated, exhaustion and shock. A medical team of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) took care of these people. The doctor on board also had to treat passengers with burns caused by fuel that often spills into the dinghy from open containers.
The Responder search and rescue operation is a partnership between the Italian Red Cross and independent charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and supported by the IFRC.