The Mediterranean Border: Mass Abductions, Push-Backs, People Left-to-Die

Image: Sea-Watch/Moonbird

Introduction

Over the 8-week period between March 18 and May 12, the Alarm Phone was engaged in 60 distress situations in the Mediterranean Sea. 33 took place in the Aegean region, 19 in the western Mediterranean Sea, and 8 in the central Mediterranean Sea. Of these 60 cases, 29 groups of migrant travellers reached Europe – Greece, Spain and Malta – while 30 groups were returned to the places of their escape – Turkey, Morocco, and Libya. 1 group was in all likelihood brought to Tunisia after departure from Libya.

This report focuses on Alarm Phone experiences over the last two months. Besides assisting dozens of boats that successfully reached European shores, we had to witness several severe human rights violations at sea, including forms of push-back, refoulement, and non-assistance, as well as cases that involved the loss of life. This year, over 500 people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. The following sections highlight some particularly memorable cases in the three Mediterranean regions while the final section provides short summaries of all distress cases the Alarm Phone has worked on between March 18 and May 12.

Despite all deterrence efforts by European institutions and governments as well as their northern African and Turkish allies, we see how precarious migrant movements via the sea persist and how novel forms of solidarity materialise. We have learned of boats that reached European shores independently and of others that were found and rescued by the civil fleet. Every rescue has to be fought for, always at risk of criminalisation. Mediterranea, Sea-Watch and the other civil sea rescuers have been tenacious, returning again and again to the sea to rescue. They have disembarked the rescued in Europe, and also showed that Italy’s harbours are not closed. The struggles of migrant travellers and supporters show that the sea is not an empty space devoid of politics. Instead, the Mediterranean is a highly contested space where some enact their freedom of movement and are supported by allies while others do what they can to thwart these expressions of freedom at every turn.

The central Mediterranean: Mass Abductions to Libya

During the period covered in this report, the Alarm Phone has worked on eight distress situations in the central Mediterranean Sea. Of these eight boats, only one was rescued to Europe while six were returned to Libya and with one group presumably brought to Tunisia. Currently, the European refoulement industry works most viciously off the coast of Libya, with merely roughly 1,000 people succeeding to escape this war-torn country via the sea until mid-May. Only two years ago, about 23,000 people had done so within the single month of May. And yet, people are still seeking escape routes, and with weather improving, more departures can be expected over the next weeks. In this section we highlight some of the cases we worked on over the past two months in this region.

On April 1, the Alarm Phone received a distress call from a boat carrying about 50 people, including 3 children and 2 women. They were very anxious and asked for help, as they were caught in dangerously bad weather conditions. We informed authorities to the case, but the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) remained uncooperative, refusing several times to inform us whether a rescue operation had been launched. Only the NGO vessel Alan Kurdi of Sea-Eye redirected its course to look for the boat. After several hours, they reached the area. Despite searching the entire night, the boat was not found and contact to the migrant travellers could not be re-established. On April 3, we tweeted: “We tried to reach the so-called Libyan CG again & again last night & this morning. Last contact to the people in distress was over 38 hours ago. With no authority cooperating, there is nothing else we can do. We hope they survived.” The boat was never found. Authorities rejected responsibility and allowed for another boat being ‘left-to-die’, yet another example of the deadly deterrence strategies of the EU border regime.

On April 3, our shift team was alerted to a group of 64 migrant travellers, including 10 women, 5 children, and 1 infant, on a boat that had left from Zuwarah/Libya. They had a broken engine and were in immediate distress. After several conversations, we were able to obtain their GPS position which we passed on to state authorities and the rescue vessel Alan Kurdi of Sea-Eye. The Alan Kurdi was still in the area of the sea as they were searching for the missing boat of April 1. Eventually, the Alan Kurdi was able to spot the boat and performed a successful rescue operation. After yet another inhumane stand-off which lasted 10 days, the people were disembarked from the Alan Kurdi and brought to Malta. Together with the sea rescue NGOs we wrote a collective statement to denounce this shameful episode in which EU member states unnecessarily prolonged an emergency at sea: “the civil SAR fleet finds itself with no other choice but to step in where European member states have fallen short and neglected their legal obligations. It is in this sea where the future of our societies is at stake, now more than ever.”[1]

On April 10, we were contacted by a boat that had left from around Abu Khammash/Libya at around 10pm the night before. They reported of 8 people who had gone overboard, leaving only 20 people on board. Also their engine had fallen in the water so that they could not move anymore. We informed state authorities as well as the reconnaissance aircraft Moonbird and later its crew confirmed that it had spotted the boat. Throughout the day we stayed in contact with the people and also repeatedly alerted the Italian coastguards to the situation – which, however, were once more uncooperative. Over seven hours after our initial alert, responsibilities were still shifted from authority to authority, with no action being taken to rescue the 20 travellers. However, a European military airplane had dropped a smoke can near the migrant boat in order to signal its location for refoulement by the so-called Libyan coastguards. And this is what happened. In the evening, MRCC Rome stated that the Libyan authorities had found and ‘rescued’ the people. We were not able to speak to the people directly again.

The case of April 10, as do so many others, highlights the ‘refoulement industry’ in the Mediterranean Sea, with European state and supra-state authorities orchestrating the eventual capture and abduction of escaping people back to a warzone. As chronicled in the last section of this report, we made similar experiences in late April and in May, when four out of five boats were returned to Libya while one was reportedly rescued to Tunisia. On these four intercepted boats there were over 350 people in total – they were returned into the devastating conditions in Libya which are further exacerbated by the ongoing military conflict in that northern African country.

The Aegean Sea: Push-Backs at Sea

During the period covered in this report, the Alarm Phone has worked on 33 distress situations in the Aegean region. Of these, 26 cases were boats in distress – 17 of them reached Greece while 9 were returned to Turkey. 6 cases concerned groups of people who were stranded on different Aegean islands after having made the sea crossing. We were also alerted to one distress situation that involved a group along the Turkish-Greek land border. With about 7,800 arrivals via the sea in 2019 until mid-May, the eastern Mediterranean route is on par with western Mediterranean crossings. However, due to an additional 4,000 people who reached Greece via the land border, the eastern route to Europe is currently the most frequented one. In this section we highlight some particularly memorable cases that the Alarm Phone worked on over the past two months.

On April 11, the Alarm Phone was contacted by a boat coming from Turkey and moving toward Agathonisi Island, with 35 people on board who had escaped from Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Somalia. The group included ten children, including infants, and five women, and there were individuals with severe war injuries on board. The boat was in severe distress and clearly located in Greek waters, and so our shift team swiftly alerted the Greek coastguards to the situation. Although we received several more GPS locations from the travellers later, which we forwarded to the Greek authorities, they informed us that the boat had been ‘found’ in Turkish waters and returned to Turkey. The testimonies of the survivors and the GPS positions forwarded to us contradict this account and highlight instead how the Greek coastguards tricked the people to follow them back into Turkish waters while believing they were being directed to safety in Greece. When the travellers realized what was going on, they sought to turn around and move again toward Greece. At that point, they had reached Turkish waters and the Greek coastguards prevented them from escaping while leaving it to the approaching Turkish coastguards to carry out a ‘rescue’ operation.[2]

On April 29, we documented another push-back operation in the Aegean Sea, near Samos island. In the early hours of the day, the Alarm Phone had received an emergency call about a boat in distress in the territorial waters of Greece. The boat carried 51 passengers, including approximately 16 children and 5 pregnant women. They sent us their GPS position showing them in Greek waters and they told us that their boat had been ‘sabotaged’ by unidentified perpetrators and left adrift. We then lost touch and could re-establish contact only after they had been returned and imprisoned in Turkey. In their testimony, they told us that they had been stopped in Greek waters by masked individuals on a speed boat:

“The boat that was getting closer to us, looked like a black dinghy. I didn’t see any flag. It was dark and we were scared. The speed boat first had its flood lights on but getting closer they turned it off. There were two masked persons on board. I think they were wearing black clothes. They shouted to us stop. My wife is eight months pregnant. She was crying. There was another woman 9 months pregnant. The masked persons had a long stick with a knife on top. With that they destroyed our petrol bin and the engine. Our boat couldn’t move anymore. The waves were carrying us back to Turkey. After maybe 30 minutes the Turkish Coastguard arrived and arrested us. I think the two masked persons had called them. We were transferred to a police station and held for two days.”[3]

On May 1, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a contact person to 11 travellers in urgent distress near the Turkish coast. We established contact to the boat and shortly after alerted the Turkish coastguards, who had already been informed about this distress situation. Our contact to the boat broke down and so we learned only the next morning that the group had been found. However, one man was reported missing. The body of a 37 years-old Syrian man, believed to be the missing person, was later found on Bodrum beach.[4]

On May 11, our shift team was informed about a boat carrying 15 people, including one woman and three children, who had left from Lebanon and were moving toward Cyprus. The contact person had lost touch with the boat that had left the day before. We could also not reach the travellers but we could monitor the credit of the satellite phone, and thus noticed that they were reaching out to someone. We informed the Greek coastguards to the situation and, after their recommendation, also the Cypriot coastguards as well as the Lebanese. The next day, in the afternoon, the Cypriot authorities called us to inform us that they had spotted a boat in distress and were launching a rescue operation after which the people would be brought to Cyprus, as was then confirmed also in the news.[5] A day after, 5 people from Syria went missing when travelling on the same route, from Lebanon toward Cyprus.[6]

The western Mediterranean: Deaths at Sea

During the period covered in this report, the Alarm Phone has worked on 19 distress situations in the western Mediterranean Sea. 14 boats were returned to Morocco while 5 made it to Spain. Until mid-May 2019, the UNHCR estimates a figure of about 7,700 crossings via the western Mediterranean Sea route to Spain, as well as about 2,000 via land routes. Due to intense repression campaigns by the Moroccan government, which are demanded and supported by Europe, the record-breaking figure of January this year, when over 4,600 people reached Spain within the month could not be replicated. Still, movements continue along this route where in 2018, over 800 people have lost their lives. Of the distress cases we have worked on over the last weeks, one case, which claimed the lives of 9 people, stands out.

On May 1[7], at 5:27am CEST, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 12 people who were missing after having left Morocco earlier that night. Authorities in Spain and Morocco were alerted and they launched a search and rescue operation for the boat. However, the boat remained missing. It was found only in the afternoon of May 2. At that time, eight people had already fallen overboard and drowned. During the rescue operation, another person, a woman who is assumed to have been pregnant, died. On May 2, at 11.30pm, we were able to speak to one of the three survivors. After they were brought to a hospital, they feared that the police would come, and so they left. They are currently in hiding. Here is his testimony:

I’m one of three men who survived the shipwreck on the 30th of April. We started as a group of 12 people, ten men and two women, at 01:00 am local time on the 30th of April from Tangier. The nine dead people came from Senegal. They came from one village and were very close to each other. They did everything together, slept together, shared meals, for me they appeared like brothers.

We contacted you [Alarm Phone] in the early morning of 30th April. When I tried to send the GPS data from my smartphone a big wave made the boat capsize. We fell in water and the cell phone get wet. So I couldn’t use it any more. We’ve managed to turn the boat around and to climb into the boat again. We lost three people and also our paddles. The boat capsized again. We lost two more people. Again, we were able to turn the boat around and to climb into it.

We knew, we are in international waters. We could see the Moroccan coast and were driving further and further into the sea. The boat capsized a third time. We lost another person. Again we were able to turn the boat around and to climb into it.

In the morning we saw big container ships, which did not notice us, despite my red clothes, waving and shouting. Again, the boat capsized. We had no strength anymore to turn the boat around and we were sitting on the turned around backside of our zodiac. Two other people died. We were fighting for our lives. 

On the next day, the 1st of May around noon we were found by a very big, white ship with Spanish letters written on it, maybe a fishing boat. We were only four people left, three men and one woman. The crew of the big white boat told us to wait for rescue and they alarmed the Marine Royal [Moroccan Navy]. We had no strength any more.

The Marine Royale arrived at around 1.00 – 3.00pm and they started the rescue by throwing a rope to us. I was the first to be rescued. They picked up the second of us survivors. The waves were very high and the zodiac turned around again. The man and the women who were still on the boat fell into the water. The man still had the rope in his hand and could be saved. The woman was carried away by the waves. One man from the crew of Marine Royale jumped into the water to help her, but the woman was gone.

After that they brought us to hospital. We couldn’t move anymore. We were so tired. I don’t know in which city the hospital was.

CASE REPORTS

Over the past 8 weeks, the Alarm Phone was engaged in 60 distress cases, of which 8 took place in the central Mediterranean, 33 in the Aegean Sea, and 19 in the western Mediterranean. You can find short summaries and links to the individual reports below.

Central Mediterranean

On April 1, the Alarm Phone received a distress call from a boat carrying about 50 people. They had left about three hours earlier in bad weather conditions. They were clearly very anxious and asked for help, also in a second emergency call a few minutes later. The shift team uploaded credit to their satellite phone to ensure they could continue reaching out. However, we could not re-connect with them to gather important information on their situation. The fate of these 50 people is still unknown. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1182

On April 3, we were alerted at to a distress case of 64 people (including 10 women, 5 children, and 1 infant) who had left from Zuwarah. The shift team attempted to call and inform the Libyan Coast Guard, however there was no chance to even reach them. Eventually, the people were found and rescued by the NGO Sea-Eye and disembarked in Malta. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1183

On April 10, we were contacted by a boat that had left from Abu Khammash/Libya the night before. The travellers informed us that they had left Libya with 28 people, but 8 people had fallen into the water and had gone missing. We alerted Tunisian, Italian and Maltese authorities, but they referred only to Libya as the responsible authority. It was not before 8pm, 13 hours after our initial distress alert, that the people were rescued by the so-called Libyan coastguards. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1184

April 29, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat which had left from Libya and was in distress. They were 23 people, including 3 children. We then lost contact with the travellers. Malta confirmed that a rescue operation was ongoing. MRCC Rome informed us that they were already aware of the case. Colibri and other SAR aircrafts searched the area on Tuesday the 30th of April, but the boat was not spotted. At 05:35pm we received the information that the travellers had been rescued by a fishing boat and taken back to Libya. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1211

On May 8, the Alarm Phone was called by a boat in distress carrying 150 people. Their engine had stopped working. It was not until 11:10am though that the people on board managed to pass us their GPS position. We called MRCC Rome and passed the position and all relevant information. It wasn’t until 8:12pm that an officer of MRCC Rome stated that the 150 people had been picked up by the so-called Libyan coastguards. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1205

On May 10, the Alarm Phone was alerted to two boats in the central Mediterranean. The first boat with 110 people on board was most probably picked up by the Libyan authorities. The second boat with 82 passengers was reportedly intercepted by the Tunisian coastguards. Both rescues could not be directly confirmed by the travellers. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1206

On May 11, the Alarm Phone was called by a boat that had left from Zuwarah, carrying around 80 people. At 2.55pm the travellers managed to find their GPS position on their satellite phone. We called MRCC Rome and alerted them to the distress. At 10:33pm they said the boat had been rescued by the Libyan navy one hour before. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1207

Aegean Sea

On March 18, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat coming from Turkey and was moving toward the north of Lesvos. They told us that they were 41 people (in the end it turned out they were 42), including 15 women and 11 children. We received their GPS position. We contacted the Greek coastguards. Later they confirmed the rescue. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1165

On March 20, the Alarm Phone was alerted at 1.15pm CET about a boat in distress, carrying 17 people. We had their location which showed them in Greek waters, near Chios Island. We spoke to them briefly but communications were difficult. We informed the Chios Port Authority at 1.18pm and informed them about the boat. The Greek authorities confirmed at 1.40pm that they would launch a rescue operation. We had a confirmation of rescue later on. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1166

On March 23, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress near the Turkish coast, carrying 65 people. We reached the migrant travellers and they confirmed that they had problems with their boat. They requested urgent help and said that they would want to be rescued also by the Turkish coastguards. At 4.52am, we reached out to the Turkish coastguards and passed on the information. […] Already at 5.05am, the Turkish coastguards called us back, stating that they had found them and would return them to Turkey. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1167

March 28, our shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 38 travellers in distress, including several women and children, the youngest only three months old. The boat had crashed into a rock, and the people had fallen into the water, and at 1.47am we alerted the Greek coast guard to the situation. At 2.54am the Greek coast guard informed us that they had carried out the search and rescue, and that the travellers were safe. http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1169

On March 30, we were alerted by to a group of four travellers, including two young children, who were stuck in the mountains close to Marmaris, Turkey. We forwarded them the local emergency numbers for them to call for assistance. Later in the afternoon the travellers confirmed their rescue. http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1170

On April 3, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 3 cases in the Aegean Sea. In two cases the travelers were rescued to Greece and in one case the travelers were returned to Turkey by the Turkish coastguards. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1175

On April 4, the shift team was contacted by a group of 41 travelers (including 13 women and 16 children) who had just landed on Lesvos island in the northern part of the island. The shift team contacted the local police and a nearby rescue team, and confirmed that the travelers were safe. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1176

On April 6, the shift team was alerted to a boat of 24 travelers, including 10 children and 6 women, close to the island of Chios. The shift team informed the Greek coastguard. At 9.20pm it was confirmed that the travellers were rescued by a fisher boat. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1177

On April 10, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat in distress that was on its way to Farmakonisi, carrying around 21 people. There had been no contact to the boat since 9:30pm. The last position that was transferred to us by the contact person showed the boat in Turkish waters at around 9pm. We couldn’t reach the travellers. At 10:55pm CEST we called the Turkish Coast Guard that informed us that they had picked up a boat with 29 travellers in the area concerned. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1171

On April 11, the Alarm Phone was alerted to two boats in the Aegean Sea. One group of 35 travellers was refouled by the Greek coastguards into Turkish Waters and then picked up by the Turkish authorities, although the Alarm Phone had sent evidence to the Greek authorities that the boat had been in Greek waters. The second boat we were alerted to carried 28 people, they were eventually rescued by the Greek Coast Guard to Farmakonisi. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1172

On April 12, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat on its way to Agathonisi island, carrying 28 travellers (incl. 10 women and 8 children). The contact to the boat had been lost. At 4:30am a contact person sent us a GPS position of the group that was on land, on Agathonisi. We called the Greek Coast Guard and informed them about the position of the travellers. At 7:26am, a contact person confirmed that all travellers were safely at the port and waiting to be transferred to Kos. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1173

On April 13, our shift team was alerted to a boat in distress, close to Altınoluk, Turkey. We established a connection to the travelers. At 3:57am the contact person sent us a new location and at 4:04am we called the Turkish Coast Guard. At 4:57am the Turkish Coast Guard sent a confirmation via e-mail that their rescue vessel picked up the travelers and was transferring them to Küçükkuyu Port/Çanakkale. At 11:05am our shift team received the confirmation also by the travelers that they had been brought to Turkey and everybody was safe. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1180

On April 14, our shift team was alerted to two boats in distress. One group of 14 travelers was brought back to Turkey by the Turkish Coast Guard. The second group was brought to a military base on the island of Farmakonisi and the transferred from there most likely to Kos. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1181

On April 22, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat with 49 people. They were in distress near the Greek island of Farmakonisi. When we could not reach the travellers directly, we informed the Greek coastguards. We then briefly reached the boat but communication with the travellers was difficult. Shortly after midnight, the Greek coastguards confirmed that they had rescued the boat. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1190

On April 23, our shift team was alerted to two boats in distress. The first boat carried 22 people, including 9 children and 5 women and they were on their way to Chios. Later we were alerted to a second boat carrying 44 people. Both groups reached Greece safely http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1191

On April 24, our shift team was alerted to a group that had landed their boat on Pasas Island and needed support. We informed Chios Port Authority at 1.52am to the situation. Later the Greek authorities called us back and asked for more information on the case. At 2.13am, the Greek authorities confirmed that they had rescued the group of 39 people, including 10 women and 10 children. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1192

On April 25, our shift team was alerted by a contact person to a boat with 13 travellers, including 3 children on its way to Kos island. We could not establish direct contact to the boat and we alerted the Greek coastguards to the boat in distress. We were then informed by the contact person that the people had reached the island independently. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1193

April 26, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a group of people stranded on Nimos Island. The people were from Syria, Palestine and Iraq. They were 14 in total, including 2 women and 2 children. Later on the Greek coastguards confirmed that the people would be brought to Symi Island. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1194

On April 29, the Alarm Phone received information from a contact person about a boat which had been “sabotaged”. On May 3, we collected a testimony from one of the passengers; we were told that the boat had been stopped by two masked individuals on a speed boat who destroyed their petrol tank and engine. The boat was left adrift with the travellers at risk of drowning at sea. About 30 minutes later they were arrested by the Turkish coastguards. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1198

On April 30, we were alerted that a group of 15 travelers stranded on Kos Island. After several failed attempts to contact Kos police, at 02:00 am our shift team alerted Kos port authorities. Port authorities informed us that they were already aware of the case. A few minutes later our contact person confirmed the rescue. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1199

On May 1, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a contact person to 11 travelers in distress near the Turkish coast. At 11:10 pm CEST, we alerted the Turkish Coast guard to the case. They informed us that they were already aware of the case and that the travelers were already with them back in Bodrum. At 11:21 pm our contact person informed us that the travelers were still at sea and that the Turkish coast guard was close to them. At 11:45 am our contact person informed us that the travelers were safe but that he had lost contact. From news outlets we found out that 12 people, including 2 children and 2 women, were picked up by Turkish Coastguards, but one man was reported missing. The body of a 37 years-old Syrian man, believed to be the missing person, was later found on Bodrum beach. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1200

On May 3, the Alarm Phone was alerted to two groups of travellers in distress in the Aegean region. The first group was close to the Greek island Lesvos, and the second stuck on a beach on the island Samos. Both groups were rescued by the Greek coast guard and brought to Greece. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1201

On May 10, we received the information that a group of 12 travelers, among them 5 children, arrived at the coast of Nimos Island. At 7:10pm we called the people and who told us that they landed on the beach. In the next morning, at 8:50am, we got the information from the Port Police that they rescued 14 travelers, among them 5 children, from Nimos Island in the morning. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1202

On May 11, our shift team received information about 15 travelers who had left from Lebanon towards Cyprus the day before. Later we received the confirmation from the Coast Guard of Cyprus that the rescue operation was in progress and that there were 14 people on board. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1203

On May 12, our shift teams were alerted to 3 boats in distress in the Aegean Sea. One boat was carrying 45 travelers who were picked up by the Turkish Coast Guard and brought back to Turkey. The second group of 45 people was rescued by the Greek Coast Guard on their way to Chios and the third group of 46 travelers was most probably brought to Samos, rescue was confirmed by the Greek Coastguard. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1204

Western Mediterranean

On March 19, the Alarm Phone was alerted at around noon to a boat that had left from Tangier/Morocco during the night, with 8 people on board. The man we spoke to reported that they had informed the Moroccan Navy already but nobody had come to their rescue. At 18.36h, the Spanish Salvamento Maritimo (SM) called us and offered to send a helicopter to the distressed. A few minutes later, however, the people on the boat confirmed that they had just been found by the Moroccan Navy.        http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1168

On April 1, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat that had left Achakar earlier that morning. At 1.45pm CET, the shift team was informed that the boat was beginning to deflate, and that the travellers were in distress. The shift team continued to update SM about the position of the boat, and finally at 6.39pm, SM rescued the travellers who were brought to Spain http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1178

On April 3, 2019, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat of 8 people (including 2 women), which had departed from the Moroccan coast an hour earlier. However, at 8.35am, before we had time to intervene, the travellers informed us that they had been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1179

On April 14, we were alerted to 5 boats in distress in the Strait of Gibraltar. 4 boats, two of them carrying 12 and two of them carrying 13 travellers, were eventually intercepted by the Moroccan Marine Royale. One boat from Achakkar, carrying 8 people, was eventually rescued to Spain. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1174

On April 22, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted at 8.04am CEST to a boat in distress off the coast of Tangier/Morocco carrying 7 people, including a pregnant woman. We reached the boat at 8.11am and the people informed us that they had left a few hours before. They were in urgent distress, still near the coast, and telling us that water was entering their vessel and that the Moroccan Navy should be alerted. At 8.36am we received the confirmation that they had been rescued by the Moroccan Navy. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1189

On May 1, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a contact person to a boat carrying 12 people, including two women. The boat had left at 1am from close to Tangier Med. We were not able to establish a direct contact to the people. Throughout the day, we were in contact with both the Spanish and Moroccan rescue authorities many times, who could not confirm the rescue of the boat. The next day, a contact person told us, that he was in contact with a survivor from the boat. The survivor reported that nine people, including both women, had died, and that the three survivors were back in Morocco. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1208

On May 4, the Alarm Phone was alerted to three boats which had departed from close to Tangier. Two of the boats were rescued by SM and brought to Spain, whilst one boat was pushed back to Morocco by the Moroccan navy after having entered Spanish territorial waters. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1209

On May 5, the Alarm Phone was alerted to two boats, one with eight and one with 10 travellers. In the end, both boats were intercepted by the Moroccan navy. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1210

On May 6, our shift team was alerted to two boats in distress in the Western Mediterranean Sea carrying 10 travelers each. Both groups were brought back to Morocco after an interception by the Moroccan Navy Marine Royale (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1195 ).

On May 7, our shift team was alerted to a boat in distress with 29 travelers, among them 9 women (3 of them pregnant). They had started from the Moroccan west coast at 2:30am local time. At 12:44pm we got through to the travelers via direct phone call and at 12:50pm we received their current GPS location. At 13:08pm we called the travelers again and they told us that a boat of the Moroccan Navy Marine Royale had reached them by now and that they were being intercepted. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1196

On May 8, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat in distress that had left from Cap Spartel at 0:30am, carrying 13 people, among them 2 women. They managed to send their GPS position at 2:28pm. At 2:36pm we called the Spanish SM. At 3:50pm the contact person confirmed that the people had been rescued to Spain and were all in good condition. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1197

 

Footnotes

[1] https://alarmphone.org/en/2019/04/14/statement-mediterranen-sea-alarm-phone-case-migrants-alan-kurdi/?post_type_release_type=post

[2] https://alarmphone.org/en/2019/04/15/refoulment-alarm-phone-migrants-distress-greece-turkey/?post_type_release_type=post

[3] https://alarmphone.org/en/2019/05/04/people-refugees-push-back-samos-turkey-greece-coast-guard-refoul-alarm-phone-border-control/?post_type_release_type=post

[4] http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1200

[5] https://in-cyprus.com/14-irregular-migrants-rescued-off-cape-greco/

[6] https://apnews.com/68bab2aac96243728b8098ba5299d140

[7] In some media coverage on this case, based on initial information passed on by us, the date April 30 was mistakenly used. We have corrected it to the actual date of the shipwreck, May 1, and would like to apologise for this mistake. https://alarmphone.org/en/2019/05/06/witness-testimony-shipwreck-alarm-phone-migrants-morocco-spain/?post_type_release_type=post

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