Alarm Phone 8 week report, September 4 – October 29, 2017
+++ EU intensifies border collaborations with Northern African governments +++ Alarm Phone resistance and political campaigns +++ New Harraga Movement from Tunisia +++ Developments in the Central Mediterranean, Aegean Sea, Western Mediterranean, and Black Sea +++ Summaries of Alarm Phone distress cases from all three Mediterranean regions
Over the past 8 weeks we continued to witness the EU’s violent attempts to thwart sea migration in cooperation with third country allies. In (Northern) African and Turkish transit spaces, the situation remains precarious and dangerous for hundreds of thousands of migrants stuck there. In Libya, the situation is constantly deteriorating, not least due to escalating conflicts in particular in Sabratha, a nodal point for migrant journeys. Also in Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, reinforced migrant deterrent or containment practices have been reported, a consequence of EU and member states’ border externalisation strategies. The newest addition to a long list of agreements is a deal signed between Germany and Egypt, where both governments agree to fight smuggling networks and irregular migration in Egypt as well as to continue cooperation in border control. Meanwhile, the European Parliament approved plans to create an automatic entry-exit-system that will require all non-EU citizens to provide biometric photos and fingerprints when they enter the Schengen area. This will further increase the huge amount of data the EU collects on foreign travellers, allow to monitor visa overstayers, and make it more difficult for people without a valid visa to avoid border controls. As legal routes to the EU remain largely absent, this will only increase the likelihood that people will risk embarking on dangerous sea journeys.
In times when borders are created and enforced at a rapid pace, seemingly wherever we look, resistance and the struggle toward freedom of movement are more important than ever. Over the past 8 weeks we have participated in a great variety of political actions and campaigns:
On Saturday the 16th of September, the anti-racist parade ‘We’ll Come United’ took place in Berlin. Thousands joined the colourful and creative demonstration, including many refugees who had come to Berlin from many locations, in ‘buses of hope’. They marched together, alongside 20 trucks that raised awareness about different political struggles: From Dublin-deportations, women empowerment, and the right to stay, to sea-crossings and demands for safe passage. In collaboration with the SAR NGOs Jugend Rettet and Sea-Watch, the Alarm Phone turned a truck into a ferry, to emphasize our cry for #FerriesNotFrontex! Find the website of the new network here: http://www.welcome-united.org/en/ferries-not-frontex/. And a photo documentation of the parade here: http://www.umbruch-bildarchiv.de/bildarchiv/foto3/160917welcome_united/index.htm
During this parade, we also proudly presented the newest music production of the BOZA-tracks collective, the recording ‘beats against borders’ in Dakar, Tanger and Berlin. The song Gal mo Gueun Frontex (“Ferries not Frontex”) by Xelu Baye Fall feat. Khalil denounces the EU border regime, demands open borders, and serves as an example for the very diverse ways in which struggles can be expressed. You can find the track here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtFNjF8ZuVA
In order to effectively intervene in a space of mass suffering and to disrupt the border regime, transborder networks around the Mediterranean have to be developed and strengthened. This is precisely what our Tunis team did when they invited hundreds of individuals, groups, and organisations to participate in the Alarm Phone conference ‘Migration Movements around the Mediterranean: Realities and Challenges’, between the 22nd and 23rd of September 2017. Self-organised migrant groups, solidarity activists, humanitarian sea rescuers, representatives of NGOs and larger organisations, as well as politicians and journalists from (North) Africa, Europe, and elsewhere discussed how to end migrant death and suffering. Many participants from North Africa, including Sub-Saharan migrants who reside there as well as the Tunisian mothers whose children disappeared after getting onto boats to Europe, reported on how EU deterrence and border externalisation policies have caused great grievances to them. Those who represent the humanitarian search and rescue actors in the Mediterranean explained how the EU’s de-legitimisation campaign seeks to turn rescuers into criminals. Over the course of two days, new networks and alliances were formed, and for those who were not able participate, there were a range of media reports on the conference and the Facebook page of the event offers insights: https://www.facebook.com/migrationconferencetunis/?ref=br_rs.
The Alarm Phone conference in Tunis came at a time when the crossings of mostly young Tunisians increased dramatically. In September, the Tunisian navy intercepted more than 550 travellers at sea, nearly three times as many as in August, when 187 people were arrested in their attempt to cross the sea. On the 1st of October alone, another 140 travellers were intercepted by the Tunisian Coastguard. On the 8th of October a boat carrying between 80-100 travellers collided with a Tunisian naval vessel on its way to Sicily, 30 miles off the Tunisian coast. Only 38 were rescued. Until now, 46 bodies of the victims could be recovered, but so far only 29 of them were identified. This new movement of ‘harragas’ has led to the arrival of about 2,900 Tunisians in Italy, merely between the 1st of September and the 18th of October. After arrival, they face the danger of rapid deportation, not least due to a recent deal agreed upon by the Tunisian and Italian governments to accelerate deportation procedures – 120 people were already deported in the last week of October and more deportations are scheduled to take place in the weeks to come. Against the appalling conditions and their ill-treatment in the detention camps and the threat of deportation, many Tunisian harragas and their families have launched protests, including hunger strikes. As a response to the renewed crossings and the many fatalities, the Alarm Phone has published a Safety at Sea video in (Tunisian) Arabic. It can be found on YouTube and our Facebook page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhjhKAPNGSw https://www.facebook.com/watchthemed.alarmphone/videos/1995365717404328/
On October the 11th, the fourth anniversary of a devastating shipwreck where more than 200 people died because European coastguards delayed rescue, we announced the release of our new brochure “In Solidarity with Migrants at Sea! The Alarm Phone 3 years on”. Just like the Alarm Phone network itself, the brochure is an assemblage. It provides analyses of the situations in the three main Mediterranean regions and reflections on some of the memorable experiences we have made over the past three years. It includes interviews, where the voices of some of our members, our friends, comrades, contact persons or travellers we encountered in situations of distress can be heard, and it provides an overview of the different networks and sister projects that the Alarm Phone is involved in. It can be downloaded in English and German on our website and printed versions can be ordered via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Between the 13th and 15th of October, our biannual meeting took place, this time in Zurich/Switzerland, where we discussed the situation and current developments in all three Mediterranean regions and reflected on our work. The exchange between our many shift teams that are spread all over Europe, Turkey, as well as North and West Africa encouraged us to struggle on. On the 14th of October we organised a large public event where some of our activists discussed the recent dynamics and struggles for the freedom of movement in Mali, Niger, Tunisia, and Morocco.
On the 25th of October, initiated by the Welcome to Europe network and including Alarm Phone members, more than 50 people came together in the harbour of Thermi/Lesvos in commemoration of the dead of the European border regime. Among them were survivors of a shipwreck that occurred on the 23rd of April 2017 north of Lesvos, as well as people active in rescue operations. “When we started to remember this year, who we have to mourn for, we realized that we are more and more confronted with death even after people have survived the sea. We had to commemorate today also friends who died last winter in the hot-spot of Moria, because they had been left during winter in terrible conditions. We are in close contacts with families that they waited too long to be reunited with their beloved even if they had the right for family reunification and died before. If you really want to mourn the dead of the Sea, you have to respect also the survivors. The only solution to end their suffering is to create safe passages, to give the people their right to move freely – and for those who are stuck here to finally open the islands. This is why every memorial for us is combined with the promise to tear down the borders that killed them and to create another, a welcoming Europe.” The memorial takes place once every year since October 2013.
Developments in the Regions
In the Central Mediterranean, we can observe that the number of sea crossings to Italy has increased, but only slightly. After having dropped significantly in August to 3,914 arrivals, as counted by the UNHCR, numbers rose to 5,961 in September. In October, about 5,755 people survived the journey and reached Italy which is significantly lower than the figures for the same month in 2016, when more than 27,000 people crossed. On the 21st of September, the Libyan ‘Navy’ released information about a shipwreck in Western Libya.The boat had been drifting for three days off the coast of Sabratha. Only 7 survivors were rescued, while more than 100 people remain missing and can be presumed dead.
In the meantime, the criminalization of SAR NGOs continues: The Iuventa, the SAR vessel operated by Jugend Rettet that was searched and seized in early August by order of the State Prosecutor of Trapani, will not be released to resume the mission, at least for now. The Court of Trapani rejected the appeal to lift the confiscation after the hearing on 19th of September. Jugend Rettet will now prepare to go into revision. The prosecution of Trapani is also investigating against Marco Amato, captain of Vos Hestia (Save the Children). He is accused of aiding and abetting illegal entry.
Due to the EU’s and member states’ political pressure and intimidation strategies as well as the real threat to the well-being of NGO crews in light of the violent behaviour of Libya’s ‘Coastguard’, MOAS announced on the 4th of September the end of their mission in the Central Mediterranean. They will instead operate in South East Asia. On the 23rd of October, Save the Children followed suit, stating: “For too long we have been the substitution for the inexistent and inadequate European policies for search and rescue and for hosting migrants.”
In spite of this incredibly tense security situation for rescuers in the Central Mediterranean, a new NGO has joined the civil SAR fleet: On the 26th of September, ‘Mission Lifeline’ started its first rescue operations with its vessel ‘Lifeboat’ in front of the Libyan coast. On the same day, the German SAR NGO was threatened by the Libyan ‘Coastguard’ which approached them after a successful rescue operation, entered the ‘Lifeboat’ and fired warning shots following the crew’s resistance to hand over the 70 travellers they had just rescued from a wooden boat. The crew of the Lifeboat persisted until the Libyan forces left again, without the travellers. In response to that incidence, spokesperson of the ‘Libyan Coastguard’, General Ayub Kacem threatened to seize NGO boats in the future that ‘threaten Libya’s sovereignty’ by entering in the self-declared Search and Rescue Region (SARR) 74 nautical miles (NM) off the Libyan shore. The SARR had been announced by the Libyan ’Coastguard’ in order to ban SAR NGOs from the area and conduct interceptions, which is legally unsustainable since a state cannot exercise exclusive authority in its SARR but only in territorial waters, which are 12NM off the coastline. In any case, a SAR zone cannot be announced by a state but requires to be agreed upon it by all bordering states and the IMO (International Maritime Organization), which has not happened so far in the case of Libya.
Threats towards the NGOs are tolerated by the EU and its member states, understood as an additional instrument to deter non-governmental actors from entering the contentious space off the coast of Libya and supporting travellers seeking to enter Europe. Following some estimates, the Libyan ’Coastguard’ has already intercepted 16,567 people in total in 2017; 2,741 travellers alone between the 7th and 21st of September.
Numbers of crossings in the Aegean Sea continue to rise: For the month of September, the UNHCR speaks of 4,859 arrivals, which constitutes the highest number of arrivals this year. From the 25th to the 29th of September alone, more than 400 travellers landed on the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios, and Samos. In October, about 4,000 people arrived on the islands. On 28th September a boat carrying an unknown number of people sank near the coast of the island of Kastellorizo. 25 travellers were rescued, but a 9 year-old girl later died in the hospital of the island. At the time of writing, it is unclear how many people remain missing.
On the 22nd of September, the highest administrative court of Greece rejected the final appeals of two Syrian refugees who are at risk of being forcibly returned to Turkey. This decision, following Amnesty International, ‘could set a dangerous precedent for future returns of asylum-seekers under the EU-Turkey deal’, and is especially cruel due to the heightened risk for refugees to be chain-deported to Syria or other countries of origin.
On the 18th of July 2017, 35 refugees were arrested in the camp of Moria on Lesvos Island. For two days in a row, protesters sat outside the European Asylum Support Office inside the camp, holding banners to denounce the dehumanising conditions and to call for the freedom of movement for those kept on the island for over 6 months. Following this peaceful exercise of their right to protest, there were clashes between a handful of protesters and Greek riot police which made use of excessive force, including beatings with batons and boots. Police forces then carried out raids and made 35 arrests. 30 of those arrested are still in prison, partly on the Greek mainland and partly on Chios, while the other five wait in the hotspot Moria for their trial. A solidarity campaign for their freedom is now emerging and we stand in solidarity with the protestors. Follow on Twitter: @freethemoria35 and #freethemoria35 and see reports by the Legal Centre Lesbos: http://www.legalcentrelesbos.org/2017/07/30/free-the-moria-35/.
The situation on the Greek islands deteriorates even further now that winter is approaching. On 9th of October, a 5-years old Syrian girl died in Moria, Lesvos, due to unspecified health problems. The campaign #opentheislands that was launched on the 12th of October as a joint initiative of more than 40 solidarity groups and organisations from Greek islands and cities, calls for urgent action from local and national Greek authorities to end the overcrowding of the island camps and to eradicate the inhumane living conditions. Currently, approximately 5000 people live in the Moria camp, which has a capacity of around 2000. Likewise, the other Greek hotspot islands –Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros– are severely overcrowded. Many people live in inadequate summer tents and have to sleep on the floor on thin sleeping mats or blankets. Last winter, 6 persons died due to these conditions. Improving the situation within the camps is of course never sufficient – the only real solution is to close the hotspots altogether and allow travellers to move on.
In the Western Mediterranean, after the tragedy of the 31st of August when 7 Congolese women lost their lives in a joint push-back and interception operation by the Spanish Guardia Civil and the Moroccan police at the Ceuta border, we learned about fatalities at the other Spanish enclave of Melilla: On the 24th of September, while attempting to cross from Beni Enzar to Melilla through a sewer, two travellers died when Moroccan forces used tear gas against them. Four others had to be hospitalised in Morocco due to the violent attack.
For those who are stuck at Europe’s border fences around the Spanish enclaves, the situation remains difficult. In Nador, in the north of Morocco, many people are waiting for a chance to take a boat to the Spanish mainland or try to enter the Spanish colony Melilla. Whilst waiting, the travellers are subjected to criminalisation, harassment by the police and locals, and the constant threat of being arrested and deported towards the south of the country, if they don’t have valid papers. In early autumn, the violence these travellers face from the state escalated, with the camps in the forests where people live being raided by the Moroccan military four to five times a week. Recently, more than 400 people were deported towards the south. Moreover, many people lost their place to stay and their possessions, as during the raids, police forces often burn down the shelters where people sleep. As the weather in the north of Morocco is getting wet and colder now, this puts a lot of people, including many women and small children, in a very vulnerable position.
At the Moroccan-Algerian border in Oujda, our local Alarm Phone group documented once again fundamental abuses and violations of human rights as well as violent deportations, from Algeria towards the Niger and Mali border and from Morocco towards the south of the country and Algeria.
For almost seven years, the camp next to the train station in Fes has been one of the only places where Sub Saharan migrants were able to rest and recover from the constant repression they face at the border. At the moment, around 2000 migrants live in this self-organised camp. However, it was announced by the Moroccan authorities in September that the camp would be evicted on the 8th of October. The actual eviction of the camp has not happened yet, but the police has started arresting Sub Saharan people and deporting them to the south, amongst them an Alarm Phone affiliated activist. See a video from the camp here: https://vimeo.com/237311697
The climate of political repression and turmoil is tense these days, especially in northern Morocco and the Rif region. Since October 2016, hundreds of thousands have begun to protest for social justice, incited by the death of a fish trader who was harassed by the the police and then left to die in a garbage compactor without interference of the police in Al Hoceima. On the 11th of June this year, the biggest demonstration in the recent history of Morocco took place in Rabat, with more than 100.000 participants marching for democracy, freedom and social justice. In spite of acts of repression against protestors, the movement is growing in the whole country. On 8th of October, thousands followed a joint call of several Moroccan leftist organizations for a national demonstration in Rabat to campaign for the release of political prisoners, to hold those responsible for repression and massacres against Moroccan popular movements accountable, and to address the socio-political and economic demands of the Moroccan people. The protests and their repression give an idea of the tense situation in which people in transit without valid papers and rights find themselves. It also explains some of the reasons why many Moroccans seek to find a better future elsewhere.
While the strict border controls between Morocco and Spain and the blocking of travellers are already responsible for the death and suffering of uncountable people, on the 12th of September, the Spanish minister of interior put forward a plan to even further reinforce the fences separating the Spanish colony Ceuta from the rest of Morocco. This comes as a response to the increase in the number of travellers who successfully reached Ceuta this year compared to last year. The rising number of successful crossings shows clearly that the self-organized movement of travellers towards the EU, realised through networks of solidarity, cannot be contained by fences and (sea-)borders.
Also on the judicial level, the struggle against the border regime achieved a notable success:
Whilst push-backs are a well-documented reality for travellers jumping the fences of Ceuta and Melilla, the European Court of Human Rights finally condemned collective expulsions from Spain to Morocco as they would violate Article 4 (prohibition of collective expulsions of aliens) of Protocol No. 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights. On the 3rd of October, the Court released its judgement on the case N.D. and N.T. versus Spain (applications nos. 8675/15 and 8697/15) concerning the collective push-back of 85 travellers who had crossed the fence surrounding the Spanish enclave Melilla on 13th of August 2014 in absence of any prior administrative or judicial decision. If this judgement will have practical consequences for those who experience regular push-backs at the fences of the Spanish enclaves remains to be seen.
Besides the violence towards travellers in Morocco and the enclaves, the situation at sea remains lethal. On the 13th of September, Salvamento Maritimo rescued four people out of the water in the Strait of Gibraltar, but one of them had already passed away. 6 other passengers who that had left Morocco with the survivors, remain missing. On the 30th of September, the Alarm Phone was in contact with a rubber boat of 7 travellers in distress. By the time the Moroccan Navy reached the boat, one person had already passed away. His body had fallen in the water during the rescue operation and was left behind (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/728).
During the past two months, sea crossings remained a frequent phenomenon in the Western Mediterranean: On the 1st and 2nd of October alone, Salvamento Maritimo rescued 119 travellers in 11 emergency cases. In spite of Salvamento being actively engaged in many rescue operations, on the 13th of September we witnessed a situation where 5 travellers who had been in contact with the Alarm Phone and were in distress in the Strait of Gibraltar were simply left to die when Salvamento stopped searching for them. The boat was left adrift for 2 and a half days and contact was lost. Fortunately, they were detected by a fisherman and rescued to Morocco.
As a response to the EU’s militarization of the Mediterranean Sea and its attempts to close other migration routes, a new route towards Europe might develop from Turkey to Romania via the Black Sea. On 13th of September, the Romanian coastguard rescued people from an overcrowded fishing boat, carrying 157 people from Iraq and Iran. By the end of September, numbers reached up to 500 travellers who have arrived in Romania via the Black Sea in 2017. In 2016, the arrival of only one single person and in 2015 of only one boat carrying 68 travellers were documented.
The Black Sea route is highly dangerous as the distances to cover are much longer than in most parts of the Aegean Sea and travellers risk to drift at sea for several days in case of distress or a broken engine. On the 22nd of September, at least 19 people died when their boat capsized off the northwestern Turkish coast of Kocaeli.
Summaries of Alarm Phone distress cases
In the past 8 weeks, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone was alerted to situations of distress in all three regions of the Mediterranean Sea. We were engaged in 35 distress cases, of which 4 took place in the Central Mediterranean, 16 in the Western Mediterranean and 15 in the Aegean Sea. You can find links to the individual reports of the past 8 weeks below.
Central Mediterranean Sea
On Tuesday the 26th of September 2017, at 7.53am, the Alarm Phone was directly called by six travellers on board of a small vessel in the Central Mediterranean Sea. They had left from Zuwarah/Libya at about 1am and were heading towards Sicily. In the following hours, we stayed in contact with them and recharged their satellite phone’s credit. At 11.30am, we forwarded all the information we had received so far to the Italian MRCC. Afterwards, we tried to get in touch with the travellers again throughout the day, but were not able to reach them anymore. Only on the next day, the Italian MRCC confirmed to us that all 6 travellers had indeed been rescued (For the full report, see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/723).
On Friday the 29th of September 2017, at 3.40am, we were directly called by a group of 6 travellers, who had left from Zuwarah/Libya. We tried to stay in contact with them and recharged their satellite phone with credit. At 10.36am, they asked us to alert the Italian coastguard, as their situation was getting worse. We called the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) and forwarded all information we had received so far. After several exchanges and the forwarding of updated GPS positions to the MRCC, at 7pm, the travellers told us that a rescue vessel was close by. At 3.30am the next day, the brother of one of the travellers called us and confirmed that the group had eventually been rescued and brought to Italy (For the full report, see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/724).
On Monday the 9th of October 2017 at 1.27am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat carrying 30 travellers, by one of the traveller’s relatives, forwarding us the satellite phone number of the boat. At 1.48am we received a direct call from them. They sent us their position, and told us that they had already contacted the Italian coast guard. We stayed in close contact with the traveller for the following hours, allowing us to receive their updated position, and recharge the credit on their satellite phone when it went down. After 5.45am we were no longer able to reach the travellers. At 9.10am the relative of the traveller called us, and informed us that the travellers had been rescued. In a tweet by SOS Mediteranee we learned that the search and rescue vessel Aquarius was involved in rescuing a boat, which description fitted our case. (See: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/730)
On Monday the 11th of October 2017, the Alarm Phone shift team received an email by Father Mussie Zerai, alerting us to a boat carrying 91 travellers, forwarding us the number of their Thuraya phone. We were not able to establish direct contact to the travellers, but as they did not have much credit, we could recharge their phone. At 11.57am we called the Italian coast guard and forwarded the information we had. Throughout the day we did not manage to reach the travellers, and by monitoring their credit we could see that they were also not in contact with anyone else. At 8.06 pm we called the Italian coast guard, asking if they had any news about the case. They did not want to give us specific information over the phone, but requested that we would send an email. At 8.45pm the Italian coast guard replied to our email, and informed us that the travellers had been rescued and brought to Italy. (See: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/731)
Western Mediterranean Sea
On Monday, the 4th of September, at 9:00am, we were informed about a rubber boat carrying 11 travellers on their way to Spain from Morocco, where they had left around 4am. We immediately reached out to the travellers. They asked us to call them back later. At 09:48am, we managed to reach them again: they informed us that they had been intercepted by Moroccan Navy (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/706).
On Tuesday, 05th of September, at 11:21am, we were informed about a boat with 11 travellers that had left from Morocco towards Spain at 06:30am. We could not reach the boat, but decided at 12:58am to call the Spanish Search and Rescue Agency, Salvamento Maritimo to inform them about the case. We also sent an email to document the alert. At 01:29pm, we managed to establish contact to one of the travellers: He informed us that they had been intercepted by Moroccan Marine Royale (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/707).
On Tuesday the 12th of September at 7.48am a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone to a boat carrying five travellers, four men and one woman, and forwarded us their number. They had left from a beach close to Tangier at 2am local time on a boat without an engine. At 9am we talked directly with the travellers who still sounded calm. Shortly after, the contact person asked us to call the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) as the travellers were too tired to continue. At 10.39am we contacted SM and passed on the information we had. After this, it was no longer possible to establish a direct contact to the travellers. At 12.25 we called SM again, and they told us that they had rescued two boats, each with four men and one woman. However, neither we nor the contact person could reach the travellers to get a final confirmation that they had arrived safely (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/708).
On Wednesday the 13th of September at 4.15am a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone to a boat carrying five travellers, and forwarded us their phone number. The travellers had left from a beach close to Tangier around midnight. At 4.28am we reached the boat, but the call was interrupted as soon as the travellers had told us that they were at sea. For the next days we tried countless times to reach the boat, but it was no longer possible to establish a connection. At 4.32am we called the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) and forwarded the information. They told us that they had already been searching for the boat for an hour with their helicopter, but had not been able to localise it. At 7.50pm SM informed us that they would stop searching for the boat now. They also told us that they had informed all vessels in the area, commercial and private, about the distress case. At 8.59pm we called the Moroccan Navy, who told us that they hadn’t found any boats that day, but took the information we had and promised to try to call the boat. At 10pm we sent another email to SM asking them kindly to recommence the search for the boat, as we were very worried that the travellers were still adrift. At 10.05pm we called the Moroccan Navy again. They informed us that they would continue the mission the following morning and let us know if they had any news. The following day we discover a tweet by the Spanish activist Helena Maleno from 2.05pm, stating that the lost travellers had been rescued by local fishermen. This information was shortly after confirmed by our contact person (For the full report, see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/709).
In the evening of Monday, the 18th of September 2017, our shift team was informed by a contact person in Morocco about a boat in distress, carrying about 27 people. The boat had left from Tangier. At 9.15pm, we were able to establish direct contact with one of the travellers but it was difficult to communicate. Shortly afterwards, our contact person in Tangier forwarded a GPS position of the boat and stated that the people on the boat had already reached out to Salvamento Maritimo. At 10.06pm, one of the travellers informed us that they could no longer see the helicopter they had seen for a while but they were now able to see a vessel approaching them. At 10.46pm, our contact person in Tangier confirmed that they had been rescued to Spain by Salvamento Maritimo. At 11.13pm, Salvamento Maritimo in Tarifa confirmed the rescue of 29 people. We could establish that this was the group in question (For the full report, see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/715).
On Friday the 22nd of September 2017, our shift team was informed to a boat carrying 12 people. An Alarm Phone member in Morocco reached the boat at 7.41pm and found out that they had left near Cap Spartel and were on a rubber dinghy. At 7.55pm, the Spanish Salvamento Maritimo informed us that they had been informed about the boat and were searching for it. At 8.51pm they stated that they could see a search and rescue helicopter. A few minutes later, Salvamento Maritimo stated that they had localised the boat and had informed the Moroccan Navy as it was still in Moroccan waters. At 9.05pm, we asked Salvamento Maritimo to do the rescue instead of the Moroccan Navy, but they declined. At 9.10pm, we talked to the passengers who said that they could see the Moroccan Navy. They were calm but sad that they would be returned to Morocco, the place they had sought to escape. Our member in Morocco talked to the group and could confirm that they were fine after having been returned by the Moroccan Navy (For the full report, see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/716).
On Wednesday the 27th of September 2017, at 7.45am, a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone to a boat in distress with 8 persons on board, which had started from Tanger Med/Morocco in the direction of Spain. Their boat was losing air and 4 persons had already fallen into the water. They asked to be rescued immediately, even by the Moroccan authorities. We directly called the Moroccan Marine Royale, which told us that a rescue operation had already started. In another call at 7.50am, the travellers confirmed to us that all 8 persons had been rescued by the Spanish rescue organization Salvamento Maritimo and that they were on their way to Spain (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/727).
On Saturday the 30th of September 2017, at 10.25am, a contact person informed the Alarm Phone about 7 people in distress at sea, who had departed two hours earlier from the beach in Tanger Med/Morocco in the direction of Spain. At 10.38am, we reached the travellers via phone and they told us that water was entering their boat and that they could barely move, being only equipped with paddles. We decided to call the Moroccan Marine Royal at 11am, who promised to send a rescue boat. At 2pm, the Moroccan Marine Royale confirmed to us that the travellers from this boat had been rescued. However, later on, we learned that one person died on the boat and that his body had fallen into the water during the ongoing rescue operation of the Moroccan Marine Royale (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/728).
On Saturday, 7th of October 2017, at 9:59am, a contact person informed us about a boat that had left around Asilah, Morocco at 5am towards Barbate, Spain carrying 45 people. Their phone was not reachable and we couldn’t establish a connection. At 2:07pm, we called Salvamento Maritimo and informed them about the boat. They said they already knew about the case. At 3:04pm, a contact person told us that the boat had been intercepted by the Moroccan Marine Royale. At 12:15, a contact person alerted us to a second boat with 33 travellers that had also left from Asilah at 5am. We couldn’t establish a connection. We informed Salvamento Maritimo at 2:07pm about the boat. At 7:55pm we received the information from the contact person that the second boat had also been intercepted by Moroccan Marine Royale (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/721).
On Tuesday the 10th of October at 8.20am a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone to a boat carrying five travellers, forwarding us their phone number. The travellers had left from Cap Spartel at 3am local time, and the past hour the contact person hadn’t been able to reach them. After trying to reach the travellers without success, we alerted the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) to the case at 8.45am. At 10am SM informed us that they were probably in contact with the travellers. At 12.12pm we called SM again, and they informed us that both they and the Moroccan Navy were busy with rescue operations. Up until that point the Moroccan Navy had rescued three vessels with five, ten and 33 travellers, and SM had rescued one vessel with seven people, one vessel with 42 people, and a vessel with five people which they thought could be the one from our case. At 12.23pm we got a confirmation from the contact person that the travellers had been rescued to Tarifa (See: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/732).
On Friday the 13th of October at 5.11pm, we received a direct distress call from a Moroccan number. The call was interrupted immediately, and when we called back the connection was bad, and all we could hear was the wind in the background. Through a contact person in Morocco we learned that they were seven travellers who had left at 1pm local time from a beach near Tangier, heading for Tarifa. At 6.43pm we called the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) and passed on our information. At 10.16pm we called SM again to ask for news about the case. They could not tell us anything about the specific case, but told us that they had conducted many rescue operations. We then called the head quarter in Madrid, who informed us that the travellers had been rescued and brought to Cadiz. At 10.40pm our contact person confirmed this information (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/733).
On Wednesday the 18th of October 2017, at 10.54am, our shift team was informed by contact person in Morocco who informed us about a boat that had embarked from Cap Spartel/Morocco at 3am. We reached out to them at 10.59am and they informed us that they were 7 people. Unable to properly communicate, we tried to re-establish contact several times, for some time without success. Around noon, we were informed that the boat-people were able to see a blue tanker in the vicinity. At 1.14pm, they could see the vessel ‘Salvamar Arcturus’ and a few minutes later, they were rescued. The Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo confirmed the rescue of the boat at 2.01pm (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/718).
On Friday the 20th of October 2017, at 3.26am, our shift team was contacted by a family member in Morocco about a boat in distress, carrying 22 people, including 2 infants, 5 women and 15 men. They had left from Beni Ensar and were now close to Melilla. Their engine had broken down and we also received a number of one of the boat-people. Minutes later, we called the boat and they confirmed the information and added that they needed help and were able to see the lights of Melilla. At 3.47am, we reached out to the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo in Almeria and they had already received information about this case. In a phone call with the boat-people at 3.56am, they stated that they could not see any vessels in their vicinity. At 4.31am, Salvamento Maritimo reached out to us, stating that they had offered to the Moroccan authorities to send out a helicopter to search for the boat. Following their account, the boat was still in Moroccan waters. At 4.40am, the Moroccan Navy confirmed to us that they were about to give permission for the Spanish rescue operation by helicopter. However, for hours, neither the Spanish nor Moroccan authorities sent rescue assets to the location of the boat. At 11.02am, our initial contact person informed us that they had been detected by the Moroccan Navy. It was then confirmed to us that boat-people had been returned to Morocco (For the full report, see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/719).
On Sunday the 22nd of October 2017, our shift team was informed at 4.56am by a contact person in Morocco about a boat carrying 9 people. They had left at 9pm the evening before from Cap Spartel/Tangier and we received a phone number of one of the travellers at 5.32am. We reached the boat shortly afterwards and spoke to a man who said that their boat was still able to move on. On vessel tracking websites our shift team detected an asset of the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo heading in the direction of the boat, the location of which we had received at 6.27am. The people on the boat confirmed that they could see a vessel approaching but they could not confirm whether or not the rescue vessel had spotted them. At 6.44am, we spoke to Salvamento Maritimo and forwarded the GPS position of the boat in distress. At 6.53am, we passed on an updated GPS position to the Spanish authorities. At 7.36am, Salvamento Maritimo confirmed to us that they had rescued the 9 people, who were then brought to Tarifa/Spain. We passed the confirmation on to our contact person. He in turn informed us at 3.28pm that he had spoken to the people and they also confirmed that they had safely arrived (For the full report, see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/720).
On Tuesday the 24th of October 2017, at 9.30am, the Alarm Phone was informed about a boat that had left from Diamal Moussa near Casciago/Morocco. At 9.45am, we reached the travellers and talked to them briefly. They were 6 persons on their way to Tarifa/Spain and not in an immediate situation of distress. In another call at 10.05am, we learned that they had already been rescued by the Spanish rescue organization Salvamento Maritimo (S.M.). At 10.52am, we called S.M. and learned that they had indeed rescued the 6 travellers (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/735).
On Sunday the 29th of October 2017, at 6.25am, a contact person informed us about a boat in distress with four persons on board, who had started from a beach east of Cap Spartel/Morocco at 3am. We called the travellers at 6.30am, they were three men and one child on board and they were facing strong winds. We stayed in contact with them until 7.35am, when they told us that their boat had capsized and that they have fallen into the water. Fortunately, they were able to flip the boat and enter it again. We immediately called the Spanish rescue organization Salvamento Maritimo (S.M.) at 7.40am, who had already sent a helicopter and a rescue vessel to the boat in distress. Later on, the travellers first told us that the helicopter had spotted them and second that the rescue vessel was approaching them. Finally, at 10am, Salvamento Maritimo confirmed to us that they had indeed rescued the 4 travellers in distress and were transferring them to Tarifa/Spain (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/736).
On Friday, the 8th of September 2017, at 03:15am, we were alerted by a contact person to a boat carrying 40 travellers towards the Greek island of Kastellorizo. At 03:46am, he informed us that the people had landed on the island. We got in touch with them at 04:08am; they had stranded on a rocky part of the island. They sent us their position and told us that some of them were injured. They were afraid of a possible pushback to Turkey. They told us that a boat of the Greek Coast Guard had come by and had left again. We called the Kastellorizo Port Police, who confirmed that they were working on the case. At 11:00am, the Port Police confirmed that the people were safe – they had been rescued to Greece. We couldn’t reach the travellers again to confirm this information (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/703).
On Saturday, the 9th of September 2017, at 01:47 am, we were alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress, carrying 45 passengers, East of Lesvos. The contact person sent us the position and asked for immediate help as the situation was urgent and the engine of the boat didn’t work anymore. We called the Greek Coast Guard and they said they would search for the boat. We then contacted the travellers to pass on the information and also stayed in touch with the Coast Guard, passing them updated positions of the boat. We documented the distress alert via email. At 2:34 am, the contact person informed us that the engine of the boat was working again. At 3:10 am, he told us that the travellers had been rescued. Also, the Greek Coast Guard confirmed the rescue to Greece (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/704)
On Sunday, the 10th of September, at 05:10am, we were informed by a contact person about a rubber boat south of Lesvos, carrying 60 people, among them many children and 5 pregnant women. The boat was still moving and we continuously received updated positions until at 5:59am the situation on the overloaded boat became worse and worse. We called the travellers and then informed the Greek Coast Guard, who said they would send a rescue boat. We also sent an email to document our alert and informed the Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) in Lesvos, about the case. At 7:00 both us and ERCI received a rescue confirmation by the Greek Coast Guard (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/705).
On Monday the 11th of September 2017, at 0.31am, a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone shift team to a boat in distress, forwarding us the phone number of the travellers. At 0.40am we managed to reach the travellers, who informed us that they were 30 people on the boat, including 10 children. They were close to the Greek island Kos, but as their engine broke down they were not able to move forward. We agreed that we would alert the Greek coast guard. At 00.45am we called the Greek coast guard, and forwarded the information we had, including the position of the travellers. The coast guard informed us that they had already sent a boat towards this position. We stayed in contact with the travellers and the contact person, and received a new position, showing that they had managed to move a bit forwards. At 1.20am the contact person informed us that the coast guard had arrived, and that the rescue was taking place. Shortly after the travellers sent us a photo showing them on board a rescue vessel. We later found out that they had been rescued by the SAR NGO Sea Watch, who had been asked to carry out the operation by the Greek Coast Guard. The travellers were brought to the port in Kos (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/712).
On Sunday the 17th of September 2017, at 9.57am, a contact person alerted our shift team to a boat in distress, forwarding us the position and phone number of the travellers. The contact person also informed us that the boat was carrying 30 travellers, amongst them 12 women and eight children. At 10.10am we managed to get in touch with the travellers via WhatsApp, and they sent us photos and videos from the boat. At 10.18am we called the Greek coast guard, who told us that they were already aware of this case. After this point, our messages were no longer reaching the travellers, and the contact person also didn’t have any news. At 11.20am we called the Greek coast guard again, and they confirmed that they had rescued the boat and brought the travellers to Lesvos (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/714)
On Wednesday the 27th of September 2017, at 4.20am, a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone to a boat in distress in the Aegean Sea, north east of the Greek island of Chios. We called them immediately and learned that there were 51 persons on board, including 13 children, all coming from Syria. We stayed in contact with them until they reached the uninhabited island Passas, east of Chios. At the same time, we also alerted the Greek coast guard, which finally confirmed that all travellers from that boat were on land and safe (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/725).
On Friday the 29th of September 2017, at 1am, a contact person provided the Alarm Phone with a phone number of travellers in distress in the Aegean Sea. We were able to reach the travellers by phone and learned that they had left the Turkish coast one hour earlier and were heading in the direction of the Greek island of Lesvos. We immediately alerted the Greek coast guard and tried to stay in contact with the travellers. At 3.50am, the coast guard informed us that the local port authorities had found and rescued the travellers. Yet, at 12.10am, the travellers wrote to us, stating that they had reached the island of Lesvos independently and had not been rescued by the coast guard (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/726).
On Friday the 1st of October 2017, at 6.20am, a contact person provided the Alarm Phone with a phone number and GPS position of 30 travellers in distress in the Aegean Sea, north of the Greek island of Rhodes, but still in Turkish territorial waters. We directly called the travellers at 6.30am and learned that their boat was damaged and leaking. At 6.35am, we called the Turkish coast guard and learned that a rescue vessel was already on its way. At 7.26am, we were told that the rescue vessel had found the travellers’ boat and 30 minutes later, the coast guard confirmed to us that all travellers had been rescued and safely brought to the Turkish mainland, where they apparently escaped (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/729).
On Tuesday, the 3rd of October 2017, at 7:14am, a contact person alerted us to a boat in the Aegean Sea, East of the Greek island of Lesvos, carrying 9 travellers, among them 5 children. At 7:23am and 7:27am, we received new positions via a contact person; they showed that the boat was moving towards the island and was already in Greek waters. The contact person had lost contact with the people on the boat, and we also could not establish direct contact. At 3:52pm, we called the Coast Guard in Mytilene. The officer in charge said that they had been looking for a boat, which could possibly be the one we were asking about. As they had not encountered the boat, he assumed that the Turkish Coast Guard had picked it up. At 4:07pm we called the Turkish Coast Guard, but we were denied any information on their operations. At 4:48pm, the contact person informed us that for unknown reasons the boat had turned back to Turkey. We tried to find out more, because the position we had received was clearly in Greek water. But as we have been never able to establish a direct contact to the travellers, we could not finally figure out what was exactly happening on that day (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/734).
On Friday, 6th of October 2017, we were alerted to two distress cases in the Aegean Sea. At 3.32am, a contact person alerted us about a boat carrying 55 people heading towards Lesvos. We could not reach the boat, but the contact person continuously updated us about the position of the boat. At 4:19am, the contact person informed us that the engine of the boat kept turning off and that one person on board had lost consciousness. At 4:20am, we called the Greek Coast Guard, who stated that they were already searching for a boat close to Lesvos. At 5:59am the contact persons informed us that the travellers had been transferred to a vessel of the Greek Coast Guard.
At 4:32am, a contact person alerted us to a second distress case: a boat heading towards Ro island with 40 people on board. We called the boat, which had problems with the engine, but was still moving. We continuously monitored their position. At 7:20am the travellers informed us that they could see Ro island. When the situation became worse, we informed the Coast Guard at 7:48am. We called the boat again at 7:58am to inform the people and asked them to also call the Coast Guard themselves. At 09:22am, the travellers confirmed that they had been rescued and that they were all safe on Ro Island (See full report: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/717).
On Monday the 9th of October 2017, at 6.24am, a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone shift team to a group of travellers in distress, forwarding us their position and phone number. We were not able to reach the travellers, and the contact person informed us that the coast guard was alerted to the case already. At 6.30am we received another location of the travellers, showing that they were on an island next to Chios. We still did not manage to establish a direct connection to the travellers, but at 8.16am we received a message from the contact person stating that they had been rescued by the Greek coast guard. (See: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/737)
On Thursday the 12th of October 2017, at 5.17am, a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone shift team to a group of travellers in distress, forwarding us their position and phone number. We called the travellers, and they informed us that they were 40 travellers in the boat, amongst them 25 children. Their engine had stopped working, and water was entering the boat. Soon after this conversation, they sent us a new position which didn’t make sense when compared to the first position. The new position we received showed the travellers in Greek waters, according to our map on watchthemed.net. At 5.37am we called the Greek coast guard and forwarded this new position. The Greek coast guard informed us that the position was in Turkish waters, and that, even though they had a rescue vessel close to the location, they were waiting for the Turkish coast guard to carry out the rescue operation. In our next call to the travellers at 5.45am, they told us that the vessel of the Turkish coast guard was approaching. At 6.17am the contact person confirmed that the travellers had been rescued and brought to Turkey. (See: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/738)
On Friday the 13th of October 2017, at 11.00pm, a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone shift team to a group of travellers in distress, forwarding us their position and phone number. At 11.15pm we reached the travellers, who told us that they were 30 people on the boat, and that one girl onboard was sick. At 11.18pm we called the Greek coast guard and passed on the information we had. At 11.20pm we asked the travellers to send us their current position, and after having double checked that this position was in Greek waters, we contacted the Greek coast guard again, and forwarded them the new position. At 12am we contacted an Alarm Phone activist who is currently at Lesvos. Shortly afterwards we spoke to the travellers again, who informed us that they had arrived at an island. The travellers had not arrived at Lesvos, but to a smaller island, and, due to the shallow water, the Pro Activa and Mo Chara vessels could not approach the island. Therefore, they asked us to communicate to the travellers that they needed to board their boat again and return to open water from where the Greek coast guard could pick them up and bring them to Lesvos. At 0.32am we called the travellers and explained this, and at 0.48m the Alarm Phone activist confirmed that the travellers were rescued and would be brought to Lesvos. (See: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/740).
On Tuesday the 17th of October 2017, at 3.42am, our shift team was alerted by a contact person to a boat in severe distress, near the Greek island of Kastellorizo. Shortly after we received a number of one of the people on board. There were 47 people on the boat, including 26 children, 10 women, 7 of whom were pregnant, and 11 men. At 3.58am, we received updated GPS coordinates through our contact person. He said that the boat was capsizing. Following their GPS position, they were very close to the borderline between Turkey and Greece. In a conversation with the Greek coastguards, they stated that the boat was in Turkish waters and they had informed the Turkish coastguards. We also reached out to the Turkish authorities, at 4.20am. They said that they would send out a search vessel. After several hours and many attempts to reach the Turkish authorities, they confirmed at 8.45am that the rescue had been successful and all people safely brought to land (for the full report, see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/722).
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