NGO vessels resume rescues at the Central Mediterranean after a corona-related pause. A record number of people drowned in the last two weeks and boats continue to be pulled back to Libya with EU funding.

The civilian Search and Rescue (SAR) vessel Sea Watch 3 has rescued a total of 211 people in three operations in less than 48h. In the latest operation last night, the crew from the NGO Sea Watch rescued 46 people from a boat in distress after being alerted by the NGO Alarm Phone. They are calling upon the relevant authorities to assign them a safe port as soon as possible.

On Friday morning, Sea Watch’s search airplane Moonbird spotted two boats in distress with a total of more than 100 people on board in Malta’s SAR region, close to Lampedusa. According to the organisation, one of the boats was spotted first on Wednesday and then went missing and a Frontex plane is now on site. The other case was reported to the authorities and the NGO Mediterranea’s vessel Mare Jonio that is reportedly proceeding to the rescue. Over the recent days the Moonbird spotted several boats at sea, one of them seems to have arrived autonomously to Lampedusa while others were intercepted and pulled back to Libya.

The NGOs Alarm Phone, Sea Watch, Mediterranea and Borderline Europe have jointly published a report using their first-hand observations to provide detailed reconstructions of three SAR events “that are emblematic of a form of EU-Libyan cooperation that has prompted the interception and return of tens of thousands of people by the scLYCG to Libyan torture camps”.

Over the last two weeks at least 90 people have been found dead or missing after two shipwrecks off Tunisia, with 61 confirmed dead, and off Libya, with 15 confirmed dead and 17 missing.

The Sea-Watch 4, a new boat funded by the German Protestant Church, will set sail for its first SAR mission in the Central Mediterranean in July after its launch was delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

On June 15, the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament held an exchange on the situation on the Central Mediterranean Route, including speakers from DG HOME, the External Action Service, Frontex, UNHCR, IOM, the IRINI CSDP mission and Sea Eye.

In 2020, Missing Migrants recorded 339 of people trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean.

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Photo: Sea Watch

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.