Watch the Mediterranean Sea is an online mapping platform to monitor the deaths and violations of migrants’ rights at the maritime borders of the EU

Read the Flyer: english, french, arabic



Flucht & Migration

Sparkasse der Stadt Berlin

Account No: 61 00 24 264

BLZ: 100 500 00

Please note: Watch the Med

IBAN: DE68 1005 0000 0610 0242 64


Safety at Sea

Instructions for a Distress Call

What to do when you receive a phone call from a boat in distress

A) The Phone Call

The information gathered during the phone call should be geared to clarify at least three fundamental aspects:

  1. Assess with as much precision as possible the number of people onboard, their condition as well as that of the boat. This is important to determine the level of urgency.
  2. Try to unequivocally identify the specific boat from which you are receiving the phone call. This is important because several cases of distress may happen at the same time, and boats may be confused. The number of the satellite phone from which the call is being made is a fundamental piece of information as are other elements of description (the number of people onboard, their nationality, the type of boat, etc.).
  3. Determine the position of the boat in distress. This is fundamental to determine which rescue agencies to contact and where rescue should be directed.

This is an indicative list of questions to be asked to the person calling:

  • What is the phone number of the phone with which you are calling? (question to be asked if the phone number of the caller does not appear/get recorded by the phone you are using)
  • What is the position of the boat? Can you read the GPS coordinates on the satellite phone? If the passengers are using a Thuraya phone (the most common), they should try to press the following functions: Menu > GPS Manager > Current position
    If no GPS device is available, ask: From where did you leave? How long have you been navigating? Can you see a boat or land near you
  • How many people are on the boat? How many men, women and children? Of which nationality? P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }
  • What are the conditions of the people on board? Is there anybody in bad physical conditions? Do you have some water and food on board? 
  • What are the conditions of the boat? Is the motor still running? Is the boat leaking? If yes, how fast is water entering into the boat?
  • What kind of boat is it? A rubber dinghy, a wooden fishermen boat, a big metal boat?

Once the call is completed or if the call gets interrupted and you can no longer reach the passengers, you may try to add credit to the satellite phone (only possible if you have the number of the phone and a credit card). For Turaya (numbers starting with +88216), you may do this through this link: https://www.thurayarecharge.com/online

B) Informing the Coast Guard

Once all possible elements of information have been gathered, it is important to alert the coast guards as soon as possible. Alert the coast guards of the country near the location of the boat in distress. If you have the position of the boat, you may also check within which Search and Rescue zone it is located by using the WatchTheMed map. The phone numbers of the respective coast guards or responsible agencies are provided here:

Western Mediterranean:
Spain: +34 91 755 91 33
Morocco: +212 5 37 62 58 77

Central Mediterranean:
Italy: + 39 065 908 4527
Malta: +356 212 57267
Libya: +218 21 4446799 or +218 21 5630257
Tunisia (Ministry of Defence): + 216 71 560 240

Eastern Mediterranean:
Greece: +30 210 41 12 500
Turkey: +90 312 231 91 05

It is important to avoid as much as possible to ingenerate confusion about the various situations of distress. In order to do so, people who are aware of the distress and who are in contact with each other should avoid to all call regarding the same incident, or, if they do so, they should always make clear to which boat they are referring (by indicating the number of the satellite phone and all other elements in their possession useful for the univocal identification of the boat).

C) Following up on the Case

Once the coast guards have been informed, it might take several hours for the rescue operation to be completed. You might want to call back the coast guards after an hour or two to know at what stage the rescue operation is. In order to avoid confusion, and especially in this phase, it is important that only one persons calls the coast guards so that there are not conflicting versions of the same story circulating.

If you have the impression that for some reason the rescue is not being carried out promptly and/or if you receive information that there have been misconducts before, during or after the rescue operation by various actors at sea (ships which have not rescued the people on the boat; attempted push-backs; deaths at sea; etc.), please contact WatchTheMed at info@watchthemed.net, we will share the information with our networks that defend the rights of migrants at sea. You may also submit a report (see also How to report).