Alarm Phone 6 Week Report, 24th July – 3rd September
Exactly two years ago, thousands of travellers opened the Balkan corridor by launching the ‘March of Hope’. Enacting their freedom to move, they crossed several borders, reached their desired places of arrival, and thereby broke the European border regime during this historic summer of migration. We as the Alarm Phone worked around the clock to support those crossing into Europe by boat from Turkey, Libya, Morocco and elsewhere. Many others assisted along the Balkan route, and the new brochure by Moving Europe – ‘Still Moving Europe, Resistance along the Balkan Route’ – gives an account of that extraordinary time. Also in response to these unauthorised movements, the EU and member states have sought to establish ever-more violent obstacles, and following the EU-Turkey deal of March 2016, they have focused their energies even more on Libya. The drastic consequences are currently becoming more visible than ever before.
In July and August 2017 combined, about 15.000 people reached Italy through the sea route. Last year, over the same period, nearly 45.000 people had survived the sea crossing and reached Italy. When looking at the figure for August alone, the decline can be observed even more clearly: about 3813 people in 2017, in contrast to more than 21.000 in 2016. This decrease over the summer months, besides the early autumn usually the time when arrivals peak, is dramatic, but what are its causes? Have the living conditions for the thousands stuck in Libya suddenly improved, so that their desire and necessity to leave have dissolved? Have the detention cages and torture chambers run by militias transformed into suitable accommodation centres? Or are these the first indicators of the success of EU policies to ‘combat the causes of flight’ in countries of ‘origin’? None of that could be further from the truth.
What we can observe over the past six weeks, the period of time that this report covers, is a full-blown offensive against migrants and civil Search and Rescue actors, in which EU institutions and member states work hand in hand with their authoritarian allies in Libya to shut down the Central Mediterranean migration route. No price seems too high to pay: the increased risk to those who seek to escape via the sea, their return to inhumane camps where they are exposed to torture, rape and extortion, the complete corrosion of international human rights standards and international maritime law, or Europe’s open association with dictatorial forces in Libya that have robbed and murdered travellers at sea and attacked those who sought to rescue them.
In the summer of 2017, we can witness how the ‘roll back’ of Europe’s border regime leads to an escalating war on migrants that counts already more than 2,400 known casualties. In late July, the NGO Proactiva found 13 bodies on a rubber dinghy among a group of 167 people, who survived. A few days later, 8 corpses were found off Libya’s shores, and no one can tell, how many bodies have simply disappeared and not found their ways into official statistics. The despicable IOM, deeply entangled in the ‘management’ of migration to Europe, announced in late August that it ‘has not received any reports of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean’ since the 9th of August. Implicitly declaring Europe’s cynical externalisation policy a ‘success’, the IOM of course does not mention the fact that many are being forcefully returned into gruesome detention cages where deaths are daily occurrences, and they also consciously sideline the fact that due to the EU-Libyan alliance, boats have departed from ever-more unlikely locations, so that it can be assumed that the loss of many lives has gone unnoticed. On the 1st of September, we received indications of another devastating shipwreck off the coast of North Africa, with possibly around 120 fatalities. While sources in Libya report of bodies constantly washing up along its shores, it seems to receive hardly any attention in Europe. But even if the EU, IOM and others want to hide them: these are the real consequences of border externalisation and deterrence policies.
And we can only fear that the death rate will increase further, as several of the search and rescue NGOs who have carried out a large part of the rescue operations were forced to suspend their missions, fortunately some only temporarily. Over the past weeks, we have seen an unprecedented assault on civil actors who have generated their own means and resources to rescue tens of thousands of lives at risk in the Mediterranean over the past years. While some signed the Code of Conduct, drafted and sought to be imposed by Italy, others refused to do so as they rightly understood the code as violating basic principles of maritime and humanitarian law. Shortly after, the Iuventa vessel, operated by Jugend Rettet, was confiscated and members of its crew remain under investigation. Doctors without Borders as well as Save the Children and Sea Eye then suspended their maritime efforts, stating that the threat of Libyan forces, who have attacked NGOs several times before, would make the continuation of their work too dangerous. In early September, also MOAS suspended their SAR operation in the Mediterranean, permanently. That the danger was and continues to be very real was demonstrated on the 15th of August, when ProActiva’s rescue vessel, the Golfo Azzurro, was forced under threat of violence to follow the Libyan coastguards into Libyan waters. After having been ‘abducted’ for about 1.40 hours, they were allowed to leave.
The practical consequences of this European agenda of repression were also directly experienced during one of our Alarm Phone distress situations. On the 5th of August, we were alerted to three people on a fishing boat in the Central Mediterranean. Finally, after a Search and Rescue Operation that lasted for about 18 hours and involved the Moonbird aircraft as well as four rescue vessels and was coordinated by MRCC Rome, the travellers were detected and rescued by the Golfo Azzurro of ProActiva Open Arms.
However, for more than 72 hours, the travellers had to stay on board of the Golfo Azzurro, as it was denied entry to both Maltese and Italian territory, and was thus stranded in international waters. According to Italian authorities, entry was denied because ProActiva had not signed the aforementioned Code of Conduct. Only on the 9th of August, the travellers were allowed to disembark in Pozzallo/Italy.
Despite the ongoing assault on NGOs, several of them continue to operate in the Central Mediterranean, including the Moonbird from the air, and with Mission Lifeline, a new actor will join the civilian rescue fleet. Instead of making use of civil SAR resources available in the Central Mediterranean, EU and member states continue to force non-governmental actors out of this contested space and reinforce deterrence operations and policies. In late July, the EU’s anti-smuggling mission EUNAVFOR MED was renewed until 31 December 2018 and in early August, Italian maritime assets moved into Libyan waters to support the coastguards in returning travellers to the war-torn country, after Libya’s UN-backed ‘Prime Minister’ Fayez al-Sarraj had invited Italian forces into territorial waters. They will be the latest addition to the fleet of refugee hunters, operating side by side the patrol vessels that Italy had already handed over to the Libyan authorities. According to some sources, more than a thousand people were returned to Libya within one week. In mid-August then, and in violation of international law, the Libyan authorities in Tripoli declared that it had extended its search and rescue zone from 12 to 70 nautical miles off the Libyan shoreline. In the meantime, the EU Trust Fund for Africa adopted a ‘€46 million programme to support integrated migration and border management in Libya’, to not merely continue EU support to Libyan coastguards but to also strengthen Libyan actors along the southern border, so that the atrocities of EU borders are pushed further south.
While the drastic decrease in sea-crossings is clearly related to these deterrence measures, there are several other reasons. New conflicts have arisen in the Libyan region of Sabratah and elsewhere, with severe implications for smuggling operations. Moreover, it recently came to light that Italy is actively bribing and paying off a militia, also known as Brigade 48, to prevent boats from leaving. Once heavily involved in human smuggling themselves, the militia currently patrols the beaches of Sabratah and combats other militias seeking to send out boats.
Moreover, the EU has also continued to intensify its cooperation with Niger, and a crackdown by Nigerien officials along the Libya-Niger border has led to a sharp decline of crossings along long-established routes between the two countries. Not only has this led to smugglers moving to more remote – and more dangerous – areas of the desert, but there have also been reports of travellers being abandoned in the desert in increasing numbers. Following its own account, IOM has rescued more than 1,000 people this year who were forced out of smugglers’ vehicles and abandoned in the desert, when the smugglers feared detection by the police. The number of deaths in the desert are not accounted for, but must be presumed to be rising steadily as such practices increase.
Despite these deadly effects of externalisation, the EU is pushing ahead with cooperation agreements, financial support and equipment to get African states to stop travellers before they reach North African shores. Germany and France have announced that they will support a 5000-person strong ‘G5 Sahel Joint Force’ not only with training and infrastructure, but also with arms and military vehicles. Mali, Niger, Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso agreed to establish such a force earlier this year, and the EU offered €50 million support. During a recent visit in Niger, 100 vehicles, 115 motorcycles and 55 satellite phones were already handed over by the German defence minister von der Leyen, with more to follow soon. The force is expected to become operational in September 2017.
Situation in the Western Mediterranean
Although the number of arrivals has decreased so significantly in the Central Mediterranean, we have seen an increase in people arriving at the Spanish coast over the past weeks. Compared to the same period last year, three times as many people have reached Spain this summer. On Wednesday the 16th of August alone, the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo rescued more than 600 travellers from at least 15 different vessels. This is the largest number of entries into Spain in one day since August 2014, when some 1300 travellers made it to Spain within 24 hours.
In the past 6 weeks, there have also been several attempts by travellers to reach the Spanish colonies Ceuta and Melilla. On the 27th of July, at least 200 people tried to jump the fence to Ceuta. Many were injured, and in the end only 73 of them managed to reach Ceuta. On the 7th of August, 187 travellers made it into Ceuta. The largest attempt occurred on the 8th of August when a group of around 1000 people stormed the fence separating Ceuta from Morocco. With large numbers of Moroccan and Spanish authorities policing the area, possibly a reaction to the arrivals the day before, merely 200 made it to Ceuta. A week later on the 15th of August, a group of between 200-300 people approached the border to Ceuta, but were all chased away by the Moroccan military.
On Thursday the 31st of August, we were alerted to a boat in distress that had left at 3AM from Assilah at the western coast of Morocco, carrying 38 travellers. Their engine had stopped working and they needed to be rescued. We alarmed first Salvamento Maritimo but one hour later, the passengers asked us to also inform the Moroccan Marine Royale, as the situation on board was deteriorating. For the next 12 hours, both Salvamento and the Marine Royale did nothing but delay the rescue. Stating that the boat was in Moroccan waters, Salvamento denied responsibility even if it was obvious that the Marine Royale would not launch a SAR operation. We were in constant exchange with the boat and passed information about the boat’s location to different authorities in both Morocco and Spain, but only after a lot of pressure and 12 hours after our initial alert, Salvamento finally sent rescue assets. Despite the possibility of rapid rescue, the available resources, and concrete indications of the boat’s position, no one reacted for hour after hour. This delay of rescue could have easily led to the death of 38 people. In a press release, we denounced this inaction publicly.
Later on, we learned from the NGO Caminando Fronteras that on that very day, a lethal deterrence operation had taken place in the Spanish waters of Melilla where the Spanish Guardia Civil had attempted to block a boat carrying 40 people. The Spanish authorities had notified the Moroccan Marine Royal to have them return people to Morocco. During this push-back attempt, many jumped into the water. 13 people were then taken to Melilla by the Spanish authorities, while the Marine Royal returned others to Morocco. Disturbingly, in this harrowing operation, seven Congolese women lost their lives.
Situation in the Aegean Sea
With more than 3100 arrivals on the Greek islands, August was the busiest month in the Aegean Sea this year. Despite a whole array of deterrence measures, some still make it through, but the dangers remain high. In late July, seven travellers, two women and five children drowned near the Cesme district of the Aegean province of Izmir. A week before this tragedy, we had tried to support a boat carrying 26 people, including 2 children and a pregnant woman who had already reached Greek territorial water. Instead of bringing them safely to the Greek island of Kastellorizo, the Greek coastguards circled around the vessel and created a dangerous distress situation. We protested these actions, but the Greek coastguards merely stated that the travellers were returning to Turkey, implying that they did so ‘voluntarily’. We later received the confirmation that the group had been picked up by the Turkish police. We were in touch with members of the group the following day and they confirmed the threatening and abusive behaviour of the Greek coastguards. Due to the coastguards’ manoeuvres, water had entered their boat and fearing for their lives, they fled back to Turkey. They also stated that another boat was in the vicinity, with Greek, French, Croatian and German flags painted on it.
After publishing our report, the Greek journalist Dimitris Angelidis wrote an article about this case, published in the Greek newspaper Efimerida ton Sytntakton. In response, the Greek authorities claimed again that at the sight of the Greek coastguards, and still in Turkish waters, the refugees had returned to the Turkish coast. They also stated that a Frontex vessel had been at the scene, presumably the other vessel that the travellers had seen. In response to this flawed account, we released the video we had received from the travellers, with their identities blurred, which directly contradicts the statement of the Greek authorities. Mr Angelidis published another article, including the video. It is clear that the actions of the Greek coastguards could have easily led to yet another tragedy at sea.
Signs of Hope
While the roll-back of the border regime is in full swing, we also continue to witness signs of hope and solidarity across the continent and beyond. Despite a push to increase deportations in Germany, the first half of 2017 has seen fewer forced removals than in the previous year, with many scheduled deportations cancelled on short notice due to the resistance of deportees, supporters, or flight crews. Refugees have protested in Greece against the limitations and slow implementation of family reunifications from Greece to Germany, and City Plaza in Athens keeps fighting against their threatened eviction.
In Germany, preparations and mobilisations for the ‘We’ll Come United’ anti-racist parade in Berlin on 16th September are ongoing, with refugee and solidarity groups from across Germany planning to march together for solidarity, for the right to move and to stay, and against exclusionary and oppressive EU migration policies. 17 themed trucks will move through Berlin one week before the federal election, including the Alarm Phone’s ‘Freedom not Frontex’ truck and many others, including those with the slogans ‘stop Dublin’ and ‘Solidarity Cities’. Many refugees will join the demonstration and travel from many corners of Germany to the capital. If you would like to support them, you can make a donation here, and thereby sponsor bus tickets for refugees: https://www.betterplace.org/de/projects/56722-buses-of-hope-protestanreise-fur-gefluchtete
Let us come together to counter the ongoing war on migrants! We will see you in Berlin!
Summaries of Alarm Phone Distress Cases
In the past 6 weeks, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone was alerted to situations of distress in all three regions of the Mediterranean Sea. We were engaged in 17 distress cases, of which 2 took place in the Central Mediterranean, 9 in the Western Mediterranean and 6 in the Aegean Sea. You can find links to the individual reports of the past 6 weeks below.
Central Mediterranean Sea
On Saturday the 5th of August 2017 at 8pm, the Alarm Phone was directly called from a tiny fibre glass boat with 3 persons on board, who had left from Zuwarah, Libya, heading in the direction of international waters. At 8.48am, we informed the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) about the boat. In the following hours, we stayed in contact with the travellers, who provided us regularly with updated coordinates. At 1.50am, they told us that their engine had stopped working and forwarded their latest GPS position to us. At 6.10am, we learned that the Italian MRCC had not yet found the boat. At 7.05am, we alerted the crew of the rescue plane MOONBIRD and at 11am, they wrote to us that they were searching in the area, as well as three rescue vessel. At 2.15pm, the crew informed us that the MRCC had confirmed to them after landing, that the GOLFO AZZURO had just rescued the 3 travellers at 2.05pm (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/698).
On Wednesday the 30th of August 2017, at 8.52am, the Alarm Phone was called from a small fishing boat with 3 men, 2 women and one child on board, who had left 10 hours earlier from al Khums, Libya. We immediately forwarded their GPS position and satellite phone number to the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) and recharged their satellite phone with 20 units. We stayed in contact with them throughout the whole day and regularly forwarded their positions to the MRCC. At 7.47pm, the travellers told us that they would see a rescue vessel and we urged them to make light signals. In another call to the MRCC in Rome at 10.16pm, MRCC refused to give us any information on the ongoing rescue operation. Only on the next day at 10pm, the MRCC confirmed to us that the travellers had been rescued and safely brought to Italy (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/699).
Western Mediterranean Sea
On Saturday the 29th of July 2017, our Alarm Phone shift team dealt with two distress cases in the Western Mediterranean. We were first called at 6.31am by a woman who said that she was on a boat with her baby and needed help. There were 12 adults and the baby on board of a rubber dinghy that had left from Tangier at around midnight. The woman was very anxious, stating that water was entering the boat. … We spoke to Salvamento at 6.41am and informed them about the group of travellers. They confirmed that they were looking for a boat carrying 13 people. … The woman reached out to us several times, updating us on the urgent distress situation and she told us that they had run out of fuel. At 7.23am, Salvamento stated that they had not yet found the boat. The woman on the boat told us minutes later that she could see several boats in the distance, which were, however, not coming towards them. She specified that there were three vessels, one red and one blue, as well as a cargo ship. We forwarded these details to the Spanish authorities at 7.39am. At 7.48am, the boat-people informed us that ‘Cosco shipping’ was written on the blue vessel. We were able to find this vessel online and forwarded its location to Salvamento Maritimo who were grateful to receive a precise position. The boat-people called us again at 8.01am, stating that the Cosco vessel was still nearby. At 8.36am Salvamento confirmed that they had detected the rubber dinghy. At 9.02am they confirmed the successful rescue of the travellers.
The second case reached us at 8.56am via a contact person in Tangiers who informed us about a boat that had left from Asilah, on the west coast of Morocco, carrying about 30 people. When we spoke to Salvamento at 9.02am they confirmed that they knew of a boat carrying 26 people in that area. The people had embarked at about 2am. Shortly after, our contact person emphasised that there were 30 people on board, including 6 women and 4 infants and he would stay in communication with them. … At 11.45am, Salvamento said that they had still not found the vessel but while searching they had detected other boats in distress. They would send out new assets to conduct SAR operations. A few hours later, we received the confirmation from our contact person that they had been found and were on their way to be disembarked in Tarifa/Spain (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/686).
On Monday the 31st of July 2017, at 6.42am, the Alarm Phone was directly called from a boat in distress in Moroccan waters. Because of a bad connection, we only learnt that they had started from Achabar, Morocco. Afterwards, the call broke down. We tried to call them again many times, but only reached them again at 7.06am. The travellers informed us that they had been intercepted by the Moroccan Marine Royale in the meantime. We contacted a member of the Alarm Phone in Morocco and asked to get in touch with the travellers. Later on we learned, that they had been brought to a police station, where they had been registered. Afterwards, they were set free and were doing fine (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/700).
On Tuesday the 15th of August, at 8.08pm, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a contact person to a boat carrying ten travellers. The travellers had left from Cap Spartel in Tangier at around 1 pm, and were no longer reachable. At 9pm our shift team alerted the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) who were already aware of the case. As we could see online that the boats of SM were in the area, we called them back at 00.05am to ask if they had any news. They informed us that they had not found the ten travellers, but had rescued another boat carrying 31 travellers. Later in the night the contact person informed us that the travellers had returned to Tangier by themselves as their inflatable boat had started to lose air. (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/689)
On Wednesday the 16th of August at 1.04pm, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a contact person to a boat carrying 34 travellers, amongst them five women. The travellers had left from Tangier between 3am and 4am, and the contact person informed us that the boat was now taking water in. At 1.40pm we decided to call the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) and pass on the information that we had. We stayed in contact with the contact person, who could continuously reach the travellers and give us updates. At 3.38pm we managed to reach the travellers, and even though it was impossible to understand anything being said, we could hear a helicopter very close by. We immediately called SM to make sure that they had spotted the travellers, which they confirmed that they had. After this, it was no longer possible to reach the travellers, but at 5.11pm the contact person confirmed to us that the travellers had been rescued and brought to Spain. (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/690)
On Friday the 18th of August at 7.30pm, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a contact person to a boat carrying 10 travellers. They had left from Tangier four and a half hours earlier, and were tired and had lost direction. The contact person had already contacted the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM), but had problems communicating with them as they didn’t speak French. At 8.08pm we managed to reach the travellers, and immediately after we alerted SM, who told us that they were already looking for the boat. At 9.00pm a contact person informed us that the travellers had decided to turn around and go back to Morocco. They had also called the Moroccan navy, but that they had not come to help them. After this it was no longer possible to establish contact to the travellers. At 10.09pm we called SM, who informed us that they had spotted the boat one mile of the Moroccan coast, and therefore handed over the case to the Moroccan navy. We then called the Moroccan navy who confirmed that they had received the information from SM, and that they were searching for the boat. At 10.25 the contact person informed us that the travellers were safe and had reached the Moroccan coast by themselves. Once they reached the shore they were taken to the police station by the military where their fingerprints were taken, and the people who did not have papers were deported to the south of the country (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/691).
On Sunday the 27th of August 2017, our shift team was contacted at 8.22am from a boat that had left from Tangier/Morocco with 7 people on board, including 2 women, one of whom was pregnant. They were on a yellow-blue plastic boat and had lost orientation. The battery of their phone was running low and they were urgently asking for assistance. At 8.45am we reached out to Salvamento (S.M.), which had already received some information about this distress case. About an hour later, the Spanish authorities confirmed that they were searching for them. … Around noon, the Spanish authorities informed us that they had also notified the Moroccan Navy. Shortly after, the travellers informed us that they could see two vessels on the Moroccan side, and we passed this information to S.M. At 2.25pm, the travellers informed us that they were still in distress and that an orange boat was nearby but apparently not seeing them. We informed S.M. about this. We tried to reach the travellers several times in the following hours, but their phone seemed to be off. In the evening, at around 9pm, S.M. informed us that they had found a boat in the afternoon, carrying 10 people. Unable to confirm whether this was the boat in question, they stated that they would continue the search. … Two days later, we were finally able to reach them. They told us that they had tried to forward us their GPS position but their phone was wet and did not function properly. In the end, some Moroccan fishermen helped them return to Morocco and they reached Morocco all unharmed (http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/692).
On Tuesday the 29th of August 2017, the Alarm Phone was in contact with two boats on their way from Morocco to Spain. At 9.13pm, we were provided with the phone of a first boat, with 28 men, 9 women and one baby on board. We immediately called the travellers and learned that they had already been rescued by the Spanish rescue organization Salvamento Maritimo. At 10.25am, a contact person forwarded to us the phone number of a second boat in distress, with 7 men on board, which had started 2 hours earlier from Acchakar, Morocco, in the direction of Tarifa, Spain. We tried to reach the travellers, but without success. Afterwards, we stayed in touch with the contact person, and at 0.30am, we decided to alert the Spanish rescue organization Salvamento Maritimo by phone and via email. At 1.20am, we once more tried to reach the travellers, but their phone was switched off. However, at 3.15am, we learned from another contact person, that the boat had been intercepted by the Moroccan Marine Royale. We informed Salvamento Maritimo accordingly (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/701.
On Thursday the 31st of August 2017, the Alarm Phone was in contact with a boat in distress with 38 people on board, among them 7 women. They had left from Assilah, west of the Moroccan coast, at 4am CET. Their engine soon stopped working and they began drifting southerly. The passengers asked us to inform the Spanish rescue organization Salvamento Marítimo (S.M.) at 11am. Less than one hour later the situation in the boat was so bad that the passengers asked the Alarm Phone to inform the Moroccan Marine Royale. We did so at 11.45am. Neither the Moroccan nor the Spanish rescue authorities reacted, even though the passengers were in a high level of distress and a GPS position for the boat was available. Only at 8pm, S.M. sent a helicopter, which found the boat at 9pm, but S.M. also informed the Moroccan Marine. At 11.21pm, the passengers on the boat were panicking because the rubber boat was loosing a lot of air, after more than 19 hours at sea without help. Only at about midnight, we received the information that the passengers had been rescued by the Moroccan Marine Royale (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/702).
On Tuesday the 25th of July 2017, at 3.20am, a contact person forwarded a GPS position of a boat carrying 54 people, including 20 women and children. We located them and tried to call them, but we could not get through to them. Since they were already in Greek waters, moving toward the south of Lesvos Island, we informed the Greek coastguards at 3.55am who took down the information. We also informed the NGO ERCI, which is located on Lesvos, about the boat in distress. At 5.33am, the Greek coastguards confirmed their rescue and we passed the news on to our contact person. We then informed ERCI and they shortly afterwards also confirmed the boat’s successful rescue to us (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/687).
On Thursday the 27th of July 2017, one of our contact persons informed our shift team at 7.17am, about a boat in distress south of Lesvos. The boat was carrying about 50 people and water was entering the boat. We were able to locate the boat based on GPS coordinates that we had received, but we were unable to reach the travellers directly. At 7.25am, we informed the Greek coastguards and they stated that this might be the boat they had already been alerted to. While trying to reach the boat-people several times, we were unable to get through. Our contact person, however, seemed to be able to communicate with them and passed on several voice messages from the passengers, and it was clear that they were very anxious and in a dangerous situation. In another voice message that we received from the boat at 7.54am, we heard a lot of shouting and voices saying in Arabic that they were scared as water was still entering the boat. We received updated GPS coordinates which we passed on to the Greek authorities at 8am. At 8.13am, our contact person informed us that the Greek coastguards had arrived at the scene of distress and had rescued the travellers. He confirmed that they were all doing fine (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/688).
On Thursday the 3rd of August 2017, at 4.30am, a contact person forwarded the GPS coordinates and phone number of a boat on its way to the Greek island of Samos to us, with 37 people on board, including 11 children. At 5am, we were able to talk to them, they were calm and their boat was still moving in the direction of Samos. At 5.10am, we called the Greek coastguard in Piraeus and were told that they had already approached the boat, but that they could continue their journey. Afterwards, we were not able to get in contact with the travellers anymore, but two days later, the contact person informed us that they had safely reached the Greek island of Samos (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/695).
On Monday, the 7th of August 2017, at 1:45am, we received a Whatsapp message about travellers, mostly families with children, in distress in the Aegean Sea. The message said that the travellers were on an overcrowded boat and that they had been left alone by the smugglers. We immediately reached out to the travellers, but had difficulties to communicate with them. We nevertheless found out that they had departed from Turkey around 11pm local time. They asked us to inform the Coastguard and gave us more details about their condition: they were about 45 persons on board, 3 persons were severely injured. Unfortunately, they could not tell us where exactly they were located. We told them to call 112 and find a way to send us their GPS coordinates. After this first communication, we could not reach them again. At 2.28am, they sent us a location on Google maps and a screenshot via Viber. They were near Rhodes Island, just in front of Afantou. We called the Greek Coastguard, who said that they were not too far from the boat and would look for them. At 3.56am, the Greek Coastguard informed us that they had picked up the travellers and were on their way to Rhodes. We couldn’t confirm this information with the travellers, as they we could not reach them any longer, but at 2.30pm, a search and rescue organisation from Rhodes confirmed via e-mail that all travellers had been rescued (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/694).
On Monday the 28th of August 2017, at 6.10pm, a contact person forwarded a phone number and GPS coordinates of a boat to us, which was in distress north of the Greek island of Samos. We tried to call the travellers, but without success. Thus, at 7pm, we called the Greek coastguard in Piraeus, which had already been informed about the boat. At 7.10pm, the Greek coastguard called us back and – after comparing the phone numbers once again – they told us that they had already rescued the boat. We forwarded this information to the contact person and asked him to confirm. But unfortunately, he had lost contact to the boat (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/696).
On Tuesday the 29th of August 2017, at 4.50am, a contact person forwarded the GPS coordinates and a phone number of a boat in distress to us, which was on its way to the Greek island of Lesvos. At 5am, we were able to speak to the people and learned that their boat was in bad conditions and that water started to enter it. They asked for help, thus afterwards we alerted the Greek coastguard and forwarded all information we had received. The coastguard called us back at 6.30am and confirmed that they had rescued the travellers and that they were safe (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/697).
 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-italy-libya/italy-begins-naval-mission-to-help-libya-curb-migrant-flows-idUSKBN1AI1JC, https://www.yahoo.com/news/tripoli-asks-italy-help-fight-traffickers-libyan-waters-113554853.html
 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-libya-italy-exclusive/exclusive-armed-group-stopping-migrant-boats-leaving-libya-idUSKCN1B11XC, http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/libyan-militias-being-bribed-stop-migrants-crossing-europe-2107168893