EMERGENCY’s new search and rescue project will be dedicated to saving people risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea
For years now, the central Mediterranean Sea has been the most dangerous migration route in the world. More than 19,000 people have died or disappeared there since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
It has become a no-man’s-land, where neither the European Union nor a single national government will send ships to ensure the safety of the people caught adrift and in need of help. Just a handful of independent organisations, without all the necessary resources, are out at sea to offer aid.
This is why we cannot simply sit back and watch. We have a duty to people whose lives are in danger at sea, just as we do to the victims of war and poverty who we support in our healthcare projects.
After months of work with other organisations and with our own experienced doctors, nurses, cultural mediators and psychologists, we can announce that EMERGENCY now has its own ship, Life Support. She will be dedicated to search and rescue missions in the central Mediterranean.
Why we are doing this
This project is in line with our mandate and what we have always done: treating those in need, those who are in the wrong place at the wrong time, not by their own choice.
The Mediterranean Sea, as we know full well from recent years, is far too often the wrong place to be. It has become a graveyard without any headstones. The number of people crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe may be lower than it was a few years ago, but as the UNHCR has pointed out, the crossings themselves are becoming more and more deadly.
The debate about charities carrying out search and rescue at sea is often a divisive one. While it’s true that we should never take for granted that what is right for us is right for others, saving lives should never be a divisive question. Once again, we have made this principle the starting point for our project.
Life Support is also a homage to EMERGENCY’s founder, on behalf of all of us and of all those who will support her voyages. On the ship’s hull we have painted words by Gino Strada: “Human rights must be for all humans, every single one. If not, we should call them privileges.”
– Pietro Parrino, Director of Field Operations Department
Life Support: EMERGENCY’s own ship
Life Support is what is known as an offshore vessel, a ship equipped for special operations. Its design makes maintenance and reallocation of space on board extremely efficient, which is helpful on a search and rescue mission.
The rescued people will be welcomed as passengers on the covered, roughly 2,260-square-foot main deck, which we have refitted from scratch and on which we have installed a clinic, toilets, beds and a few benches.
The main deck leads out onto the boat deck, an open space of around 970 square feet, shaded by canvas and with benches. This is where people will first come on board after they are rescued.
It will be an important area for our medical staff, 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.
Preparing for our first sea mission
After a period of refurbishment and construction work, our colleagues are now finalising preparations onboard Life Support. The first mission is planned for autumn 2022.
EMERGENCY’s search and rescue experience in the Mediterranean Sea
Between summer 2019 and spring 2022, we went out into the Mediterranean on the ship Open Arms, alongside its crew, to provide medical aid on board. Doctors, nurses and cultural mediators from EMERGENCY took part in these missions.
Our colleagues took part in 12 missions and supported the rescue of more than 2,000 people.
A mediator and a psychologist from EMERGENCY took part in Mission 65 in August 2019, helping handle a situation in which 107 migrants were kept on board when the ship was denied a safe port by the then Italian Minister of the Interior.