Via MSF.org: Mediterranean Migration: Proactive search and rescue operations essential life-saver. Excerpt:
In the past 100 days, Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF) has contributed significant resources to saving lives on the Mediterranean Sea and has rescued 11,482 people at risk of drowning through its search and rescue operations onboard the Bourbon Argos, Dignity I and MY Phoenix (the latter operated in partnership with MOAS). Since operations began on 2 May, MSF has encountered many boats dangerously close to sinking, where lives have only been saved because the rescue boat was in the right place at the right time.
MSF’s rescue data shows that almost all rescues occur in two main areas off the Libyan coast near Tripoli and Zuwara. The search and rescue vessels operated by MSF and MOAS focus their entire attention on patrolling these waters proactively, with the sole mission of rescuing people from boats in distress.
This is not the case for many other vessels involved in search and rescue efforts which have other mandates to fulfill and are not stationed in this area unless specifically called upon for an operation by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC). In 2014, commercial vessels carried out 40% of all rescues, but recent attacks on commercial ships off the Libyan coast have meant that captains are now reluctant to enter this area for security reasons.
“Increasingly, we see that we are required to carry out multiple rescues from multiple boats within a matter of hours”, said Lindis Hurum, MSF Emergency Coordinator on board of the Bourbon Argos.
“Our teams have also encountered boats with people who had already died from dehydration or asphyxiation during the journey. To me this suggests that despite the EU response supposedly being ‘bigger and better’ than last year, there are not enough boats available and in the right spot to adequately respond to the needs of those crossing the Mediterranean.”
“People drown in seconds” adds Will Turner, MSF Emergency Coordinator on board of the MY Phoenix. “In order to save the most lives, boats need to be focused solely on search and rescue, and be stationed as close to the North African coast as possible. It’s not enough to be waiting for a call in the waters between Sicily and Malta; search and rescue must be done proactively.”