Alarm Phone in contact with 2,000 People on 54 Boats


INTRODUCTION

Over the past 8 weeks, the period of time this report covers, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone was engaged in 54 distress cases in the Mediterranean Sea, involving about 2,000 migrant travellers. About half of them did not reach Europe, and the fate of dozens remains unknown.

25 distress situations took place in the Aegean Sea, involving over 750 individuals. Here, 15 boats reached Greece while 10 were returned to Turkey. We have also documented several violent attacks and pull-backs of migrant boats in this area of the sea. Via the Aegean Sea route, about 13,850 people have reached Greece so far this year.

15 boats reached out to us from the Western Mediterranean Sea, involving about 300 people. The vast majority, 12, were intercepted and returned to Morocco by its navy. Only 3 boats reached Spain. We also documented the loss of one person’s life in one of our distress cases in this region. Via the Western Mediterranean route, about 11,022 people have reached Spain so far this year.

We were also alerted to 14 boats in the Central Mediterranean Sea, involving over 900 migrant travellers. The fate of 3 boats remains unknown. 3 boats were intercepted and brought back to Libya. 4 boats were rescued to Malta, and another 4 to Italy, including the case of 54 travellers who were rescued by Mediterranea’s vessel Alex and brought to safety in Italy. Also in this region, several fatalities were documented. Via the Central Mediterranean route, about 4,119 people have reached Italy or Malta so far this year.

CASE REPORTS

You can find short summaries and links to the individual reports below for the three Mediterranean regions. 

Western Mediterranean

On Monday, the 20th of May 2019 at 7am CEST, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat which had left from Cap Spartel. At 7.15am we made brief contact with the boat but could only hear waves in the background before the call failed. We received GPS coordinates at 8:10am. Over the next couple of hours we kept an eye on the boat. At 11:21 we learned via the contact person that the boat had been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1218

On Tuesday, the 21st of May the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat carrying 8 people, including 2 women – one of whom was pregnant – in distress. The boat was eventually intercepted by the Moroccan Navy, despite their initial belief that the call was not genuine. One person died, and the surviving travellers were imprisoned after their rescue. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1219

On Wednesday, the 22nd of May the Alarmphone shift team was alerted to two boats in distress, both were intercepted by the Moroccan Navy. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1220

On June 5 a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone to a boat in distress with 13 travellers which had left from Cap Spartel the previous evening. We unsuccessfully tried to establish contact with the boat for many hours. At 1.45pm our shift team called MRCC Rabat and asked whether they had rescued a boat corresponding to our case. They informed us that on that day there had been no search and rescue operations. At 4.00pm we got through to one of the travellers, who told us that they had been intercepted and brought back to Morocco. http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1221

In the morning of Friday, the 7th of June the Alarm phone was alerted to two boats that had left from Cap Spartel the night before. Both boats were eventually intercepted by the Moroccan Marine Royale. http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1222

On Sunday, the 23rd of June, at 11.35 am CEST the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat with 11 travellers that had left from Achakar around midnight. Our shift team managed to establish contact with the boat and the travellers informed us that there were 4 minors amongst them and that they were tired from rowing and some of them were seasick. At 12:30pm we received the GPS position of the boat. 15 minutes later, we were informed that the boat was intercepted by the Marine Royale and the people were being brought back to Morocco. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1239

On the 24th of June at 10:57am CEST the Alarmphone shift team was alerted to a boat carrying 11 people. The boat had left from Achakar at 2:30am. At 3:15pm we contacted the Spanish search & rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) who were already aware of the boat and searching for it. At 4:35pm we learned that SM had rescued the travellers to Spain. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1245 )

On the 28th of June at 2:05am CEST the Alarmphone shift team was alerted to a boat carrying 53 people (including 5 women) which had left from Nador at around 3am the day before (27th of June). Over the course of the day we tried and failed to make direct contact with the travellers. At 6pm we learned that the Spanish search & rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) had seen the boat. At 7pm SM confirmed that they had found the boat, but that the travellers would be taken to Morocco as they had been rescued by the Moroccan navy. At 4:33pm the next day (29th of June) we received confirmation that the travellers were back in Morocco. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1246

On the 30th of June at 10:05am CEST the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat which had left at 3:30am from Achakar. We got in contact with the boat and at 5:17pm the travellers told us that the Spanish search & rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo had arrived and later took them to Spain. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1247

On Monday, the 1st of July 2019, the Alarm Phone was called at 15.38h CEST by a contact person who alerted us to a boat in distress, carrying 57 people, including 7 women. According to the contact person, the boat had left from Nador during the night and at some point contact to the boat had been lost. When we could not reach the boat directly, we alerted the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) and were told that SM had sighted this boat in distress already and a rescue boat was moving toward its position. At 17.20h, SM confirmed that the 57 people had now been rescued and were in the process of being brought to Almeria in Spain. Our contact person confirmed at 20.47h that the people had told him on the phone that they had arrived in Almeria. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1248

On Thursday, the 4th of July, the Alarm Phone was alerted to two boats trying to reach Spain. The first boat carried seven people (including one woman) from Tangier and was later intercepted by the Moroccan Navy. The second boat with 57 people on board, including four women, left from Nador, and was also later returned to Morocco by its navy. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1249

On Friday, the 5th of July 2019, our Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person at 9.13h CEST to a boat in distress, carrying 9 people. It had left from Achakar during the night. We tried to contact the boat repeatedly but were unable to get through. Finally, we received an updated GPS position of the boat around 17h, and the information that the people on board were tired and needed to be rescued even if this meant being returned to Morocco. We were able to alert the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) at 17.28h and passed on the position of the boat. When we received an updated position, we forwarded it to SM at 18.09h. We spoke to MRCC Rabat at 19.18h and they confirmed knowledge of the situation and that a SAR operation had been launched. At 19.58h, MRCC Rabat stated again that they were looking for the boat. At 20.28h, our contact person stated that the boat had been found and everyone was doing ok. The people were returned to Morocco. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1250

Central Mediterranean

On May 16th at 0.48 am CEST the Alarm Phone received a call from a relative who informed us about a boat in distress. The boat had left from al-Zawiya, Libya at 10pm CEST the last day. The shift team alerted the civil aircraft Moonbird to the case, although it seemed very unlikely that they would find the boat. At 8:28 am the Alarm Phone had the last time contact to the relative who stated to have no news. Shortly thereafter Moonbird informed us that they could not find them neither. Alarm Phone tried to reach the relative and the travellers for several hours and then decided to close the case without clarification of the fate of the travellers. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1236

On Tuesday, the 21st of May the Alarmphone shift team was contacted by family members of a person who had left the Echatt/Annaba region of Algeria for Sardinia in a boat with 5 people the day before (20/05). Their last contact with the boat was 3 hours earlier. Over the next hours we tried and failed to make further contact with the boat. At 11:51am the next day we learned from the relatives that the travellers had arrived safely. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1228

On Thursday, the 23rd of May the Alarm phone shift team was alerted to a boat in distress carrying 90 people. They told us that they had seen a white aircraft 15 minutes prior, and also sent us their GPS position which we passed on to the Italian coastguard and to Colibri. At 4:30pm we learned that the boat had partially deflated and people were in the water. The Libyan authorities rescued the people from the water and returned them to Tripoli. The Italian navy, whose ship Bettica was just a few kilometers away, confirmed this. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1229

On Friday, the 24th of May the Alarm phone shift team received a call from a boat in distress carrying pregnant women and children. There was water entering the boat. After the initial call we were unable to re-establish contact with the travellers. We alerted the Italian, Maltese and Libyan search & rescue authorities. Over the next 24 hours we continued trying to make contact with the boat but never managed to. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1230

On Wednesday, the 29th of May 2019, the Alarm Phone was alerted to two boats in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea. We were never able to speak to the approximately 80 travellers on the first boat, but kept regular contact to a relative who was following the situation from land. The people were eventually rescued to Malta. The Alarm Phone was able to stay in direct contact with the second boat for many hours. European authorities were uncooperative despite the boat’s location in international waters and the presence of Italian maritime and aerial assets in its vicinity. Rescues were delayed by about a day, and the people had to suffer at sea for two nights. Eventually they were rescued to Italy, but upon arrival the survivors stated that several people had died during the journey. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1231

On Thursday, 30 May 2019, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a relative to a boat in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea, carrying about 70 people on board. We were never able to speak directly to the people on board. Eventually, we believe, the boat was intercepted back to Libya. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1232

On Wednesday, the 5th of June we were alerted to two boats in distress in the Central Mediterranean. The first boat, carrying 75 travellers was rescued by Maltese coastguards. The second boat was rescued on the following day by a cargo ship, Asso Veniticinque (25), the travellers were eventually disembarked in Pozzallo, Italy. http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1233

On Sunday, the 9th of June, the Alarm Phone was called by a boat in distress that had departed from Libya. As the connection was bad, we were not able to get the GPS position. For the whole night and the following morning our shift teams tried to re-establish connection with the boat. Around midday we were eventually able to speak to the travellers. They told us that they were 100 people on the boat. At 12.35 pm CEST we received their GPS position. At 12.56 pm we called the Maltese coastguard. At 1.08 pm we spoke to the travellers again, they told us that they were hungry and thirsty, and that people were sick. They also informed us that there were 5 women and 3 children on the boat, one of the women was pregnant. Around 2 pm we spoke several times with the travelers who were panicking. At 02.58 pm we were informed that the travelers were being rescued to Malta by a patrol boat. http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1234

On Thursday, 20th of June, we lost contact to 120 travellers in the Central Mediterranean. We spoke to them for many hours and had alerted all respective authorities in the region, but we couldn’t confirm their interception to Libya until the next morning at 8 am CEST, 21 hours after the initial alert. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1235

On June 22nd, at 11:20pm CEST, the Alarm Phone received a call from a boat in distress carrying 40 people, only men. We received the first GPS position which was clearly in Maltese waters. At 11 :33pm we informed RCC Malta about the distress case. We remained in contact with the people. At 8.33am, nearly 8 hours after Malta had confirmed to us to send a rescue asset, we got the information from the authorities that they rescued the boat. http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1244

On Tuesday, the 2nd of July 2019, the Alarm Phone was called at 23.12h CEST by a man who stated that he was among a group of 60 people, including 20 women and several small children, who were in distress in the central Mediterranean Sea after leaving from Zawiya, Libya. He called not from a satellite phone but a Libyan phone number, indicating that they still had phone coverage and were not too far off the north African coast. Following his account, they had embarked on their journey at 21.30h and could still see lights along the Libyan shore. He stated that water was entering the boat as one of the dinghy’s tubes was deflating, and they were afraid to die. It was clear that they could not continue and they requested immediate rescue, even if this meant being returned to Libya. We asked him to forward their GPS location, which the man said he would try. However, we were never able to get in contact with him or the boat again. Authorities were unreachable or uncooperative. The fate of the 60 people remains unknown. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1251

On Thursday, the 4th of July 2019, the Alarm Phone was called by a rubber boat in distress at 15.57h CEST. The people said they had left from Zawiya in Libya the evening before and were about 55 people in total, including 11 women and 4 children. At 16.07h, we informed the so-called Libyan coastguards and NGOs in the vicinity. Eventually, Mediterranea’s rescue vessel Alex conducted a successful rescue operation and disembarked the people in Lampedusa. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1252

Aegean Sea

On Friday, 17th of May the Alarm Phone was alerted to two boats in distress in the Aegean Sea. The boat with 40 travellers was eventually rescued to the island of Kos. The second boat with 55 people on board was attacked by masked men close to the Greek island Samos. They were eventually pulled back by the Turkish Coast Guard. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1212

On Sunday, 19th of May, we were informed about a boat in distress close to the Greek island of Farmakonisi. The contact person stated that the boat would carry around 12 persons and had been in the water since at least 5 :45am already. The position he passed to us was from 5:08am. Afterwards, the contact to the boat had been lost. At 3:30pm we called the Greek Coast Guard, that informed us about a rescue of 15 people in the vicinity, among them 5 women and 4 children. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1213

On Monday, the 20th of May 2019 we were alerted to two boats, one on the way to Samos, one on the way to Farmakonisi. Both cases ended with the travellers being brought back to Turkey. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1227

On Tuesday, the 21st of May 2019, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat in distress carrying 35 people (including children) whose boat was being pushed by waves towards rocks, very close to the shore of Kastellorizo. A few minutes later we received their GPS coordinates which showed that they had landed on Kastellorizo island. At 10:59pm we informed the Greek coastguard about the group. At 11:56pm the people from the boat confirmed that they had been helped by the police and are safe now. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1217

On Wednesday, the 22nd of May the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat carrying 25 people. We were told that the boat was sinking. We received a GPS coordinate which showed the people being very close to Kos. At 7:47am we alerted the Greek coastguard to the case, and learned from them at 8:14am that they had sent a rescue boat. At 10:58am the contact person for the case confirmed rescue by the Greek coastguard. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1214

On Thursday, the 23rd of May 2019 the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat in distress carrying around 30 people. We saw from their location that they were very close to the coast of Lesvos. After failing to make direct contact with the boat we informed the Greek coastguard at 3:10am. At 3:34am we learned that the Greek coastguard rescued the travellers 20 meters from the shore, this was later confirmed by the Greek coastguard. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1215

On Sunday, the 26th of May Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat carrying 54 people including 24 children and 10 women. Soon, at 3:46am, the boat landed on Samos. We informed the Greek Coastguard in Piraeus. At 4:28am we learned via the contact person that the travellers could see boats arriving, however the travellers were afraid of a pushback and refused to board the rescue boat. Over the next few hours we tried to reassure the group of travellers and encouraged them to accept help from the Greek authorities. At 7:25am the Greek police informed us that they found the group at the Zoodochos Pigi monastery and were beginning to transport people to the next village. At 7:42am we received confirmation from the travellers that they had arrived safely. http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1216

On Tuesday, the 28th of May 2019, the Alarm Phone was alerted to three groups in distress situations in the Aegean region. One group had stranded on the Greek island of Nimos and was later found. A second group was in distress at sea and later recued to Kos. A third group was on its way to Kos and was later returned to Turkey. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1223

On Thursday, the 30th of May 2019, the Alarm Phone was alerted to two boats in the Aegean Sea. The first boat was rescued by the Greek coastguards to Farmakonisi island, the second one is presumed to have been returned to Turkey by the Turkish coastguards. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1224

On Friday, the 31st of May 2019, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress and on its way to Chios Island. The boat had run out of fuel but the people could already see the church on the island. There were 25 people on board and our contact person had lost contact with them. We informed the Greek coastguards at midnight about this situation. Unfortunately, we were never able to establish direct contact to the migrant travellers. The Greek coastguards informed us at 00.50am that they had sent out a patrol boat that had, however, not found the people. At 1.10am, the Greek coastguards stated that the people had probably been returned to Turkey. At 3.45am, the Greek authorities confirmed that they were back in Turkey. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1225

On the 1st of June 2019, at 3.37am CEST, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress, carrying 21 people. Via the contact person we received the GPS position off the people on board and the information that their engine had stopped working. They had intended to move to Kos but were stuck in Turkish waters. We tried to contact the boat but were unable to reach them. At 4.15am, the contact person said that he believed the people had been found by the Turkish coastguards. At 4.40am we spoke to the Turkish coastguards and at 5.21am they confirmed that they had rescued a boat with 21 people. We shortly after compared the phone numbers of the travellers and could confirm that this was the boat in question. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1226

On June 13 our shift team was alerted to a boat close to the coast of Samos island, carrying approximately 45 travelers in the early morning hours. When our shift team could establish a contact to the people they had already landed and shortly after that we learned that they were picked up by the port police of Samos. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1237

On June 15 our shift team got alerted to a group stranded on Symi island at 4.24am CEST. It took until 5.10am until our shift team could confirm the number of travelers (9 adults and 7 children) and the concrete location of the group. At 5:18am we alerted the Greek Coastguard, who confirmed at 8.09am the rescue of all travelers. http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1238

On 19th of June our shift teams were alerted to two boats heading to the Greek islands of Chios (45 people) and Samos (50 people). Both of them arrived safely. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1241

On Friday, 21st of June, at 4:29am CEST, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat in distress near Oinousses island. At 4:36am we managed to establish a direct contact to the boat. We heard many voices and children screaming. At 4:41am, we alerted the Greek Coastguard in Piraeus. At 4:49am, the travellers informed us that the rescue had started. At 5:10am we called the Greek Coastguard again that confirmed the rescue. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1240

On Thursday, the 27th of June our shift team was alerted to three boats in the Aegean Sea:

At 11:43pm CEST we were alerted to a speedboat carrying 18 people heading towards Farmakonisi. Over the next few hours we received GPS updates and learned that their engine kept starting and stopping. At 3:20am the group asked us to contact the Turkish coastguard. At 4:40am the Turkish coastguard confirmed the rescue of 22 people. At 10:35am the next day we received confirmation from the travellers that the Turkish coastguard had picked them up.

The second alert reached our shiftteam at 2:19am CEST from a boat with 36 travellers near to Kos. At 2:29am our shift team alerted the Greek Coastguard, who had just arrived on scene and confirmed the ongoing rescue of the boat. At 9:24am the next morning the people also confirmed their rescue.

The third alert came in at 2:57am CEST by a boat in the area of Bodrum. The 31 travellers (incl. 18 women and 2 children) had already alerted the Turkish Coastguard, who confirmed at 4:50am the rescue of the boat in question. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1242

On the 28th of June at 1:05pm CEST the Alarm phone shift team was alerted to a rubber boat near to Alexandroupoli carrying 35 people, who had left from Turkey an hour earlier. We contacted the Greek coastguard at 1.30pm. The Greek coastguard searched for the boat, but couldn’t find it. At 11:52pm the Greek coastguard told us that the Turkish coastguard let them know that they had rescued some people near the same position. Initially the Turkish coastguard denied to us having rescued anyone in that area, but at 1:50pm the next day they confirmed that they had indeed rescued a boat with 43 travellers close to the same position. http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1243

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