Mark has recently joined the team on the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship operated jointly by MSF / Doctors without Borders and SOS MEDITERRANEE. Here he blogs about the team's work in the Mediterranean:
It’s crazy to think about all these people floating around out here.
I write on the port-side deck, looking out to sea.
I just heard 800 people were picked up today. That’s between us, the one other NGO ship and the Italian Coast Guard. That’s 800 people, even though it’s winter when everyone thought things would settle down.
The weather has been bad, but today was a good day with a full moon so maybe more boats set off from Libya. So…right, we found 800 people, but how many didn't get picked up and are still out there in this black sea?
Typically someone on the boat will call this MRCC (Maritime Coordination Rescue Center) hotline in Rome on a satellite phone that you never find, thrown overboard. Or a smuggler accompanies them for a while and makes the call and we're sent coordinates.
Sometimes there isn't a call and the little boats, crowded with people, are spotted from our bridge or picked up on radar.
We found 800 people, but how many are still out there in this black sea?
On both rescues since I’ve arrived we've found the boats the day they departed shore; usually we do. We have to, since their chances of making it overnight aren’t good.
This movement of people strikes me here much more heavily than the limited exposure I've had to this migration working with Doctors Without Borders in the north of Ethiopia. There, sure, people are moving with basically nothing, but at least they're on land.
The movement of people in Ethiopia is easier for me to comprehend than the idea of floating around this massive body of water, often without even a life jacket. Nothing in their pockets. One rescuer told me he picked up a man last summer who was naked. Apparently it’s not that uncommon. (more…)