350 migrants rescued today from unsafe boats in the Mediterranean Sea; Seven tragic deaths

Published: 5 September 2016

Geneva/Malta, 5 September 2016.  In a day of intense rescue operations, the Red Cross and its partner, Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), came to the aid of more than 350 migrants in unsafe boats between Libya and Italy.

“There were five life-saving missions today that began early this morning when our teams aboard the Responder rescue ship spotted one rubber boat, crammed with 134 people,” describes Rosemarie North, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, who is on the Responder.

“People started tumbling into the water, many unable to swim. The MOAS search-and-rescue team was able to bring nearly everyone to safety, but despite strenuous efforts, seven lives were tragically lost.”

Red Cross medics aboard the vessel provided rapid care to survivors in urgent need of medical attention, and over the course of the day gave check-ups to all other passengers. During the day, the Responder took on board passengers from four other vessels – either rescues or transfers from other vessels in the area. By evening, the Responder had more than 350 passengers, from Africa and South Asia.

Yesterday was another busy day for the Responder, with 119 people rescued from a rubber boat and transferred to the Italian Coastguard, which is coordinating the search effort.

Favorable weather conditions in the past week have led to a surge of people risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean, in search of safety in Europe.

The Responder works with a smaller sister ship, the Phoenix, to patrol and conduct rescue missions along the route between North Africa and Italy where the majority of the estimated 3,100 drownings this year have occurred.

On the Responder, Red Cross aid workers from Italy, Switzerland and New Zealand provide post-rescue assistance including first aid, medical care, food, water, dry clothes and blankets. On the Phoenix, post-rescue care is carried out by Italian Red Cross volunteers and staff. People who have died are transferred to the Responder with care and respect before they are taken to land.

As these dangerous sea crossings mount, IFRC calls on world leaders to end the indifference to needless drownings and take action to protect human dignity and save lives.

The rescue missions of the Responder and Phoenix are a partnership between the Italian Red Cross -with support from IFRC - and MOAS, an independent charity.

For live updates from the Responder, follow: @RosemarieNorth.

For further information, interviews, photos or video please contact:

On the Responder:

Rosemarie North, spokesperson, IFRC

Tel: +31 6 22 35 67 75 | Twitter: @RosemarieNorth 

In Italy:

Laura Bastianetto, spokesperson, Italian Red Cross

Email: laura.bastianetto@cri.it | Tel: +39 3207 979 485 | Twitter: @LBastianetto

In Geneva:

Benoit Carpentier, Team leader, public communications, IFRC

E-mail: benoit.carpentier@ifrc.org | Mobile: +41 792 132 413 | Twitter: @BenoistC