(…) “Six months later, in April 2015, a succession of shipwrecks culminated in the largest single loss of life in the Mediterranean when a 90ft (27m) boat thought to be carrying nearly 900 people capsized, leaving only 28 survivors. The following month, the military operation EUNAVFOR Med was launched by the E.U., aimed explicitly at disrupting the “business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks.”
But while Triton and EUNAVFOR Med both conducted search and rescue, it was not their primary mission. Instead, privately funded charity boats stepped into the gap left by Mare Nostrum.
The first of a new generation of private search and rescue missions – the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) – appeared in the Mediterranean in August 2014, founded by U.S. businessman Chris Catrambone and his Italian wife, Regina. Other groups soon joined the effort. Some, like Malta-based MOAS, were avowedly nonpolitical, while others, such as the German outfit Sea Watch, openly sought to shame E.U. member states into relaunching a dedicated state-level SAR mission.
The NGO boats and crews were not similarly equipped or trained. Some, like Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Save the Children, operated from larger vessels that could transport the refugees and migrants they rescued to Italy. Others, like the German activists of Sea Eye and Jugend Rettet, had no capacity to transfer those rescued to a safe port. Instead they would stabilize migrant boats where possible, use their own rigs as temporary life boats or get life jackets to those in the water, and call the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome.” (…)
Daniel Howden is a senior editor at Refugees Deeply. A contributor to the Economist and the Guardian, he was previously the Africa correspondent and deputy foreign editor at the Independent.