CALL OUT – SMARTPHONES URGENTLY NEEDED IN WESTERN MED

The Watch the Med Alarm Phone is an emergency hotline for refugee and migrant’s boats crossing the Mediterranean. In case of distress they can call the alarm number (+33486517161) and the shift on duty will inform the responsible authorities and monitor the search and rescue operation. Since the Hotline has been launched in October 2014, more than 600 distress cases have been registered and rescue organized successfully. Read our reports at http://alarmphone.org/de/.

The Watch the Med Alarm Phone receives a high number of distress calls from the Western Mediterranean. In Morocco, overcoming the border fences to the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla is becoming increasingly difficult, especially since push backs have been legalized and the fences at the land border are continuously reinforced. More and more people try to reach the Spanish mainland by zodiacs, small rubber boats, crossing the Mediterranean.

As the Watch the Med Alarm Phone, we receive many distress calls from boats tenting to cross the Strait of Gibraltar, since the currents are dangerous and the dhingies not well equipped.

Especially between Morocco and Spain we often encounter difficulties to locate boats in distress because most of the people neither carry satellite telephones nor smartphones, which they could use to send their GPS coordinates. Since the people in distress cannot indicate their actual position, search and rescue missions take much longer than they could have done and are more difficult. Especially the search at night is problematic and the people are often many hours in the water before they are found and rescued. Many people lose their lives in the Strait of Gibraltar. They are forced to risk it since there is no legal and safe way for them to reach Europe!

From the Aegean Sea we have good experience with people communicating their exact position to us using Whatsapp and the GPS function on their Smartphones. This way the Coast Guard have a much better chance of finding and rescuing them in a short time. Moreover, knowing the position makes us able to know which territorial water people are in, and thus knowing what Coast Guard to call and at the same time realising if people are being pushed back to the country they tried to leave.

Between Morocco and Spain most boats are intercepted by the Moroccan Marine Royale, even when the boat is in international or Spanish water. Establishing a connection to a Smartphone on the boat would enable us to document and thus scandalise push backs. As the Strait of Gibraltar where people try to cross is only 14 kilometres and has internet coverage, establishing such a crucial connection is possible!

CALL OUT FOR SMARTPHONE DONATION

The Alarm Phone will collect as many smartphones as possible and distribute them in Morocco, alongside with creating awareness for the importance of GPS data for rescue operations. If it is possible for you, please collect smartphones in your town, spread this Call Out and ask friends and relatives if they have a smartphone to donate! If you don’t have old smartphones, and still want to support this campaign, money donations are also very welcome! Collected money will then be used to buy cheap used smartphones, that can be sent to Morocco.

If you manage to collect phones, please make sure that any content on the phone is deleted before sending it to us. Contact us via Mail for getting the information where to send the phones or transfer money to. Our email is: morocco-phones@riseup.net

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Our main working language is English so that the English version of the website will be the one most up-to-date. However, we will also continuously work on updating the website in all the other languages.