Since June 20, the Alarm Phone has born witness to yet another horrible shipwreck at the European external borders.
Shortly after 19h on Tuesday evening, we receive first snippets of information about a boat in distress, on its way from Boujdour to the Canary Islands. There are between 59 to 70 people on board, including 6 women and one child.
At 19:55 CEST, we first speak to the people on board. They are panicking because water is entering the boat, some people are in the water and they report that three people are dead. We immediately alert the Spanish coastguard at 20:10 CEST and pass on all relevant information. At 21:10 CEST, we obtain the correct GPS position which we also immediately forward to the authorities.
From 21:19 CEST, the maritime tracking pages show a merchant vessel, the Navios Azure, leave its course and move towards the GPS position we received. From roughly 23h CEST, their location appears close to the boat in distress.
At 00:04 CEST, we manage to reestablish contact with the people on boat: „Please save us, we are dying,“ they tell us.
At 00:54 CEST, the Spanish coastguard confirms that a merchant vessel is on site, but that the rescue operation is coordinated by the Moroccan Navy. At 01:14 CEST we first call the Moroccan Navy and also send alerts via email, however the Moroccan authorities remain unresponsive all night. During the night, we also unsuccessfully try to contact the merchant vessel Navios Azure in order to explain that it is their duty to immediately rescue in a distress situation. Given that the people are on a rubber dinghy, completely unfit for travelling the Atlantic and that there are already people in the water, a distress situation must have clearly been visible for the merchant vessel.
Nevertheless, the merchant vessel does not come to the aid of the people desperately fighting for survival.
Only around 4h CEST, a Moroccan navy vessel (the Al Manar) leaves the harbour of Boujdour and arrives on site around 7:30 CEST. When finally MRCC Rabat is reachable at 09:01 CEST, we are informed that the Al Manar rescued 24 survivors, but is still looking for more people in the water.
Throughout the day we keep hoping for more survivors, but further calls to the authorities confirm 24 survivors and three bodies found. At 20:45 CEST on June 21, a relative informs us that the overall number of people who travelled on the boat was 61 people which brings the number of missing up to 34 people.
We are extremely sad and angry about this wilful loss of lives. We demand clarification why the merchant vessel appears to have stood by the whole night while the shipwreck was happening. We demand clarification why a rescue vessel arrived on site only at about 07:30 CEST although we had communicated a GPS position to authorities ten hours earlier.