Statement: Boat with 500 Syrian and Iraqi refugees sank about 70km North East of Zuwara, Libya

Today early morning at 5:25 am CET the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone received a distress call coming from a satellite phone: two big wooden boats, carrying approximately 1000 refugees had started from Libya and their calls to MRCC Rome remained unanswered. Since then the activists of the Alarm Phone stayed in direct contact with the boat communicating with them in Arabic and regularly updating the MRCC Rome about the situation and especially their GPS-position. The first position was passed to MRCC Rome at 6:21 am CET.

At 8.45 we received another desperate call from one of the boats informing us, that the second boat sank and that hundreds of people are in the water and drowning. Again the Alarm Phone alerted all authorities as well as cargo ships in vicinity about this dramatic SOS. In the meanwhile obviously rescue operations started, but we fear, that this help will come too late for hundreds of refugees.

Today early morning at 5:25 am CET the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone received a distress call coming from a satellite phone: two big wooden boats, carrying approximately 1000 refugees had started from Libya and their calls to MRCC Rome remained unanswered. Since then the activists of the Alarm Phone stayed in direct contact with the boat communicating with them in Arabic and regularly updating the MRCC Rome about the situation and especially their GPS-position. The first position was passed to MRCC Rome at 6:21 am CET. At 8.45 we received another desperate call from one of the boats informing us, that the second boat sank and that hundreds of people are in the water and drowning. Again the Alarm Phone alerted all authorities as well as cargo ships in vicinity about this dramatic SOS. In the meanwhile obviously rescue operations started, but we fear, that this help will come too late for hundreds of refugees.

On the two big boats mainly refugees from Syria and Iraq were on their way to find safety. Until middle of March they came mainly via the Aegean Sea, a way that is now blocked by the EU and their new Turkish partners. Another time it is proved that to block refugees leads only to more dangerous trips and to more death.

To be more clear: We don’t claim that there is unwillingness or delaying from MRCC part. But we believe that there is still lack of rescue capacities. Already in the last two days more then 5000 refugees had been rescued when they desperately tried to escape from Libya towards Italy. Some of the rescue boats are still on their way to bring those rescued to Italy. A lot of private and commercial ships are ready to help in the rescue operations, but often they are not able to reach sinking boats quick enough. The only solution would be safe passages and ferries for all.

Ferries not Frontex!

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