Migration: MSF bolsters operations in the Mediterranean Sea

Barcelona - A third search, rescue and medical care boat, with teams from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on board, will assist people trying to reach Europe by sea in a bid to escape war, persecution and poverty at home.

“What we are witnessing in the Mediterranean Sea is a humanitarian crisis,” says MSF’s Paula Farias, operational manager on the boat, named Dignity I. “This rescue mission might seem different from our usual projects, in that it takes place at sea, but our priority is the same as in South Sudan or Syria – to save lives.”

The Dignity I has a crew of 18, including medical staff. The 50 metre-long vessel left the port of Barcelona on 13 June and has the capacity to carry 300 rescuees.

This boat will bolster MSF’s search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea. The MY Phoenix, run by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) which has teams from MSF on board to provide post rescue care, was launched on 2 May and has so far rescued 1,789 people. The Argos, run solely by MSF, started operations a week later, on 9 May, and has so far rescued 1,242 people. In Italy, where almost all rescuees are disembarked, MSF provides medical care in the main reception centre in Pozzallo in Ragusa province, Sicily, and provides psychological support in all secondary reception centres in Ragusa province. A psychological first aid team, composed of cultural mediators and a psychologist, can be deployed to different landing ports in Italy within 72 hours after receiving an alert of acute psychological needs.

“The number of people trying to cross the Mediterranean is likely to rise even higher in the coming weeks with the settled summer weather,” says Farias. “We need a strong operation to be able to assist them and prevent the Mediterranean turning into a graveyard.”