IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS OF 16 FEBRUARY, EMERGENCY’S SHIP LIFE SUPPORT CARRIED OUT TWO RESCUES. BOTH BOATS WERE IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS
156 PEOPLE RESCUED. ASSIGNED THE POS OF CIVITAVECCHIA
EMERGENCY DENOUNCES INTIMIDATION BY VESSEL BELONGING TO LIBYAN SECURITY FORCES
On 16 February, shortly after 12 a.m., EMERGENCY’s search and rescue ship Life Support spotted a vessel in distress in international waters. The ship’s captain immediately informed all relevant authorities and activated the rescue team.
“The wooden boat, about 7 metres long, suddenly appeared on the radar. It spontaneously approached our ship: at first the people onboard attempted to board Life Support directly, a practice that risked their safety. Their boat was overcrowded and therefore very unstable,” says Emanuele Nannini, EMERGENCY’s Project Coordinator for Life Support. “They only calmed down when they saw the rescue team activated. The survivors reported to us that they had passed another boat like theirs at sea in precarious conditions and without any safety devices.”
The transfer of the rescued people from the RHIBs to Life Support was completed at 2:30 a.m. The 46 people come from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sudan, Eritrea and Egypt. Three are minors. After concluding the rescue operations and informing the authorities, Life Support asked for a place of safety where the rescued people could be disembarked. While waiting for a response, it resumed search activities for the boat reported by the people rescued during the night.
So far, there are no traces of this boat.
Around 8:30 a.m., an hour after receiving the place of safety, Life Support spotted another boat in distress. It was a grey inflatable boat about ten metres long. At this point Life Support began rescue operations in coordination with the Italian MRCC, which had meanwhile indicated the POS of Civitavecchia.
“We spotted a grey dinghy that was taking on water,” says Domenico Pugliese, Captain of Life Support. “It was so overloaded that the people sitting on the tubulars had their legs in the water. The rescue team immediately proceeded to recover the people onboard with an operation made complicated by the extreme precariousness of the boat. Our two teams approached the dinghy with the help of an inflatable support vessel to be used in case it capsized.”
The rescued number 110 people including 26 unaccompanied minors, two women and three children under 10. They came from Gambia, Chad, Cameroon, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Guinea. Operations ended at 11:30 a.m. “All the people rescued are well and resting. We are constantly monitoring their condition,” says Agnese Castelgrandi, Medical Officer onboard Life Support.
On the evening of 14 February at 9 p.m., Life Support was approached by a fast craft that made reckless and intimidating manoeuvres without identifying itself or giving any kind of communication, despite Life Support repeatedly requesting radio contact. Life Support had been carrying out search and rescue activities outside Libyan territorial waters since Sunday, 12 February, after informing both Italian and Libyan authorities and without receiving any coordination.
EMERGENCY discovered yesterday that the vehicle in question belonged to the SSAs (Stability Support Apparatus, a body dependent on the Libyan Ministry of the Interior).
We denounce the intimidation and the risky manoeuvres towards us by a vessel belonging to Libyan security forces. We confirm that our vessel was more than 25 nautical miles from the Libyan coast, thus at a proper distance from the territorial waters that end at 12 miles, as can be ascertained from the navigation equipment onboard.
Our mandate is and remains to rescue lives at sea, a need further confirmed by the shipwrecks that have occurred in recent days.