Alarm Phone Weekly Report, 27th of July to 2nd of August

On Monday the 27th of July, the Alarm Phone was alerted by Nawal Soufi’s activist collective to two situations of distress in the Aegean Sea/Greece. The rescue of one vessel to Samos Island was soon confirmed by the Greek authorities. A second group of travellers had already reached the island of Kos and needed help. They had run out of water and food, and one woman had lost consciousness. A rescue operation was launched but it took a long while before the group was found. Rescue came too late for the unconscious woman who had passed away, which was confirmed after she was brought to hospital (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/184).

 

On Tuesday the 28th, the activist collective alerted us again, this time to an emergency situation in the Central Mediterranean Sea. They passed on the GPS coordinates as well as a satellite phone number of the passengers who, however, could not be directly reached. Our shift team then contacted the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome and received the confirmation that they were already working on this distress situation. We also reached out to the civilian rescue vessel Sea Watch and they confirmed that the cargo vessel Alexander Maersk was already on site, presumably conducting a rescue operation. The crew of the Sea Watch later stated that, in addition to the cargo vessel, there were two Italian coastguard vessels close to the vessel in distress. The Sea Watch then moved to the area of distress and observed the rescue of the vessel. MRCC Rome later also confirmed the rescue of the vessel in question (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/185).

 

On Wednesday the 29th, we were alerted by Father Mussie Zerai to an emergency situation in the Central Med. He passed on GPS coordinates of the vessel which was already close to Lampedusa/Italy as well as a satellite phone number which, however could not be reached. We were able to recharge their phone so that they could continue to make use of it. A few hours later, MRCC Rome confirmed the rescue of the vessel, carrying about 500 people. Later on, Soufi’s activist collective informed us about a second distress situation in the Central Mediterranean Sea where a vessel was trying to reach Italy from Turkey. They passed on a satellite phone number but, again, the phone could not be reached. We reached out to MRCC Rome and informed them about the emergency situation (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/186).

 

On Thursday the 30th, we were contacted by Father Zerai. He informed our shift team about a vessel in distress in the Central Med. When the travellers could not be reached we informed MRCC Rome who confirmed that they were working on the case. At approximately 1.45pm, they confirmed that a patrol vessel was there to rescue. On the day, 6 rescue operations were coordinated by MRCC Rome during which 5 dinghies and 1 boat were rescued. In total, 885 people were rescued on that day (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/187).

 

Also on Thursday, the Alarm Phone was contacted at 3.30am by someone with a Moroccan phone number who told us about a vessel in distress carrying 6 people. They had left the Moroccan coast a few hours earlier on a rubber boat. We then turned to the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo who said that they would take on the case. In the meantime, the travellers called repeatedly and asked for urgent rescue. For hours, their rescue could not be confirmed until Salvamento reported that they had been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy.

A few hours later we received a call from someone whose family was at sea. We received a phone number of one of the travellers and contacted them directly. There were 11 people on board and they asked us to contact Salvamento. The Spanish rescue organisation confirmed that they were already looking for the vessel in question and a few hours later their rescue by Salvamento was confirmed.

We were alerted to a third case of distress by a contact person who told us about a group that had left the Moroccan shores in the early hours of the day. We reached out and they told us that there were 10 people on board. One hour later the travellers confirmed that they had been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy (http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/188).

 

Also on Thursday, Nawal Soufi’s activist collective informed the Alarm Phone about a group, including many children, lost on Symi Island/Greece and in need of rescue. Our shift team then informed the Port Authority on Symi which, in the afternoon, confirmed that they had just brought 30 people of the group to the police station and would go again to transfer the remaining 32 to the station as well. They stated that the group, totalling 62 people, would stay at the station until the day after.

In the afternoon, our shift team was contacted by someone in Sweden who informed the shift team that a vessel carrying families had arrived somewhere in the south of Lesvos Island. They were disoriented and without food and water. Following his account, the travellers had seen vessels that appeared like police or military assets which, however, had not come to their aid. Hours later the contact person informed us that the group had been found and rescued (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/191).

 

On Friday the 31st, we were informed about a group of 45 travellers who had reached Samos Island/Greece. There were many children amongst the group who, so our contact person, needed help urgently. He passed on the GPS position of the group and also reported that he had already informed the police but without results. We spoke to the group on Samos and passed on the number of the Greek UNHCR to them. They stated that one person was wounded and that they could not stop the bleeding. Following their account, the police passed by but left without supporting them. For several hours afterwards, the group could not be contacted and it was not clear whether Greek authorities were responsive to our demands to search for them. Their rescue could not be confirmed.

On the same day we had a second case in the Aegean Sea. We were informed by a contact person that his friends were in distress at sea after the Greek coastguard had attacked and punctured their vessel. They were in danger of capsizing. Shortly afterwards, the people on the vessel were able to send us their GPS position via WhatsApp. We then contacted the Turkish coastguard who promised to search for them. We reached out to the group again and they informed us that they were 27 people on board. Their vessel was losing air and several travellers did not wear life-vests. The Turkish coastguard stated that they were monitoring the situation and that, due to several distress cases and a lack of resources, they would rescue vessels one at the time. We also informed them about the allegations against the Greek coastguards and they stated that the Greek coastguard would do ‘several of such activities’. We then communicated with the group via WhatsApp and, finally, they confirmed that they had all been taken on board of the Turkish vessel. We later learned that they had been released from the Turkish prison. We informed UNHCR in Greece and Turkey, human rights organisations on both sides of the border and the Greek ministry on migration for further investigations on the alleged attack on the travellers (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/189).

 

On Saturday the 1st of August, we were alerted to three cases of distress in the Western Mediterranean Sea. We were contacted by a woman who said that there was a group of 9 travellers (7 men, 1 woman, 1 child) that had left Morocco 4-5 hours earlier on a vessel. We tried several times to reach the travellers directly, without success. We informed Salvamento Maritimo who told us that they knew of the case. They said that the Moroccan Navy was already searching for the vessel and it was not in their territory so they could not go and do the rescue themselves. In the evening our contact person confirmed that the group had been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy and had already been returned to Morocco.

On the same day we were alerted to a second vessel in distress in the Western Med. At about 4.30pm a woman called us who told us about a vessel that had left between 2-3am in the morning. About half an hour later we found out that there were 11 men on board who had left from Cap Spartel. The contact person told us that they needed help urgently as they had problems with their vessel. Following her account the Moroccan Navy had even been informed but they did not want to conduct a rescue operation. We passed these obtained information on to Salvamento Maritimo. In the evening, the contact person informed us that they had been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy. Later on we were able to reach the travellers directly via WhatsApp. They said that, for a long time, they had been ignored by both Spanish and Moroccan coastguards despite a clear distress situation.

In the late evening we were contacted by a person who had been on a vessel that was intercepted by the Moroccan Navy around midday. He told us that they were transported to a police station and then placed in a car. When he called us he was still in the car with 12 other people who were scared and exhausted from their attempt to cross the sea. A few minutes later we learned from them that they had been left out behind Casiago forest (see:

http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/190).

 

Also on Saturday, the Alarm Phone was contacted by someone on Facebook who alerted us to a post by a person whose family was on a vessel in distress between Turkey and Greece. The post included a screen shot with the location of the vessel and GPS coordinates. Later on we learned that they had been rescued by the Turkish coastguard and returned to Turkey.

On the same day we were contacted by Nawal Soufi’s activist collective who alerted us to a vessel in distress and passed on GPS coordinates. Since the coordinates were nearly identical with the ones from the first case, it may be that, in fact, they belonged to the same group. We learned that they had an encounter at sea with an unidentified vessel, whose crew removed their petrol. As they were in Turkish waters, we contacted MRCC Ankara who confirmed that they would be searching for the vessel. Hours later we received the confirmation from the travellers that they had been saved by the Turkish coastguard and were now in Izmir (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/192).

 

Again on Saturday, Father Zerai notified us about a distress situation in the Central Med. He forwarded both the GPS coordinates of the vessel and a satellite phone number. The people could be reached and they reported that there were many children, pregnant women and sick people on board. In the meantime Father Zerai had also received new information and he told us that there were about 350 people on board, including about 70 women and 6-7 children. Later on, MRCC Rome confirmed that a rescue operation was currently being carried out. However, for several hours rescue could not be confirmed and the travellers reached out frequently to tell us about the dramatic situation on the vessel. Then, finally, in the evening, MRCC Rome confirmed the rescue of the vessel and its passengers (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/193).

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