EMERGENCY NGO SEARCH AND RESCUE SHIP LIFE SUPPORT EMBARKS ON INAUGURAL MISSION IN THE CENTRAL MEDITERRANEAN SEA
A 28-PERSON TEAM IS ONBOARD, CONSISTING OF CREW, RESCUERS, MEDICS, AND CULTURAL MEDIATORS.
Life Support, EMERGENCY’s specialist search and rescue vessel, has departed from Genoa, Italy, on its maiden voyage into the central Mediterranean Sea, joining the civil movement to save lives in the face of inaction by governments across Europe.
Life Support strengthens EMERGENCY’s commitment to those whose rights – above all the right to life – are neither recognised nor protected. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 20,000 people have died or disappeared in the central Mediterranean, the world’s most dangerous migration route. In 2022 alone, more than 1,300 people have met this fate so far. There were over 1,500 deaths and disappearances at sea in this region in the whole of 2021 – an average of four every single day. Additionally, since the beginning of the year, more than 21,000 people have been intercepted and returned to Libya, where numerous human rights violations of migrants have been documented, including forced labour, torture and sexual violence.
“EMERGENCY is going to sea to save lives and protect human rights. We believe that Italy and the European Union should run coordinated search and rescue activities, as well as guarantee safe, legal channels for people fleeing war, violence and poverty. But these do not exist. In their absence, we are joining the civil movement to protect human lives in the Mediterranean,” says Rossella Miccio, president of EMERGENCY.
Words by EMERGENCY’s late founder, Gino Strada, are painted on the ship’s hull: “Human rights must be for all humans, every single one. If not, we should call them privileges.”
EMERGENCY has already taken part in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, providing medical care onboard vessels run by other organisations. In 2016, we provided medical aid, cultural mediation and post-rescue assistance on board Topaz Responder, belonging to the charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station. From summer 2019 to March 2022, we worked with the Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms on board their eponymous ship.
“Life Support intervenes in a place considered to be the most dangerous frontier for migrants, both in terms of the number of deaths and of missing people,” says Pietro Parrino, Director of EMERGENCY’s Field Operations Department. “It is our way of continuing to do our part, reinforcing that sea rescue is not only a legal obligation, but a moral duty.”
Life Support is an offshore vessel, 168 feet long, 39 feet wide and weighs more than 1,300 tonnes. It can hold up to 175 rescued passengers, in addition to its crew. The ship is divided into two working areas, a crew area and one for welcoming passengers on board. In the first of the working areas, we have installed new life-saving equipment and adapted the existing equipment to our purposes. The second area, the main deck, was re-designed from scratch by EMERGENCY for receiving and welcoming people on board after they are rescued. It has a medical clinic, toilets, beds and seating.
The main deck leads out onto the boat deck, an open space of around 970 square feet with benches shaded by canvas. This is where the passengers will first come on board after they are rescued. It will be an important area for our medical colleagues, where they can assess the state of health of our passengers with the same triage methods used at hospitals. Depending on the outcome of the triage, the passengers will be given a code allocating them either to the clinic, the main deck, the boat deck, the observation ward or the nearby benches.
EMERGENCY’s team on Life Support consists of a mission coordinator, a doctor, two nurses, two cultural mediators, two rescuers, a logistician and a skipper for the RHIB (rigid inflatable boat). They are joined by the ship’s crew.
EMERGENCY is absolutely convinced of the need for safe, legal channels for people forced to leave their own countries, to prevent them risking their lives in order to get to Europe. As long as Italy, the European Union, and other governments fail to respond, EMERGENCY will go on working alongside others to rescue and welcome people, rather than ignoring their fate.
is an international organisation founded in 1994 to provide free, high-quality medical and surgical care to victims of war, landmines and poverty, as well as to spread a culture of peace, solidarity and respect for human rights.
EMERGENCY’s medical facilities around the world treated more than 12 million people free of charge; one patient every minute.
EMERGENCY’s work is made possible by the donations of private individuals, companies, foundations, international bodies and the governments of some of the countries we work in, all of whom choose to support our work.
If you would like to support EMERGENCY’s work and provide free, quality treatment to people in need, visit https://en.emergency.it/donate