500 People in Distress off the coast of Libya, all rescued

05.04.2015 / 15:16 / Off the coast of Libya

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigation – 4th of April 2015

Case name: 2015_04_04-CM9
Situation: Approximately 500 people in distress off the coast of Libya
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Central Mediterranean Sea, near the coast of Libya

Summary of the Case: On the 4th of April 2015, the shift team of the Alarm Phone received a message from Father Mussie Zerai, notifying them about a vessel in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea. The vessel carried approximately 500 people, amongst them many women and children, mostly from Eritrea. Father Zerai passed on the SOS call to the MRCC Rome with the position of the vessel.

The shift team called the MRCC Rome as well and received the information that the Italian authorities were working on the case. They refused, however, to provide our team with further details. The shift team searched for ships in vicinity and found out that there were two merchant vessels near the position given by Father Zerai. Our shift team was then informed that about nine rescue operations were going on in the same region. We learned that rescue was underway for the vessel in question.

In the evening, news sources began to report about the arrival of refugees in Italy and confirmed that large rescue operations had taken place close to the Libyan coast (see source 1). Besides Italian vessels, Maltese vessels and the Icelandic Frontex vessel ‘Tyr’ had been involved in these operations that rescued approximately 1.500 refugees (see source 2). Those rescued were brought by the Italian coastguard and navy to Augusta, Porto Empedocle, Lampedusa and a harbor in the region of Calabria.
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Layers »
  • Border police patrols
    While the exact location of patrols is of course constantly changing, this line indicates the approximate boundary routinely patrolled by border guards’ naval assets. In the open sea, it usually correspond to the outer extent of the contiguous zone, the area in which “State may exercise the control necessary to prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws” (UNCLOS, art. 33). Data source: interviews with border police officials.
  • Coastal radars
    Approximate radar beam range covered by coastal radars operating in the frame of national marine traffic monitoring systems. The actual beam depends from several different parameters (including the type of object to be detected). Data source: Finmeccanica.
  • Exclusive Economic Zone
    Maritime area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea in which the coastal state exercises sovereign rights for the purposes of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, the seabed and its subsoil and the superjacent waters. Its breadth is 200 nautical miles from the straight baselines from which the territorial sea is measured (UNCLOS, Arts. 55, 56 and 57). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans
  • Frontex operations
    Frontex has, in the past few years, carried out several sea operations at the maritime borders of the EU. The blue shapes indicate the approximate extend of these operations. Data source: Migreurop Altas.
  • Mobile phone coverage
    Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network coverage. Data source: Collins Mobile Coverage.
  • Oil and gas platforms
    Oil and gas platforms in the Mediterranean. Data source:
  • Search and Rescue Zone
    An area of defined dimensions within which a given state is has the responsibility to co-ordinate Search and Rescue operations, i.e. the search for, and provision of aid to, persons, ships or other craft which are, or are feared to be, in distress or imminent danger. Data source: IMO availability of search and rescue (SAR) services - SAR.8/Circ.3, 17 June 2011.
  • Territorial Waters
    A belt of sea (usually extending up to 12 nautical miles) upon which the sovereignty of a coastal State extends (UNCLOS, Art. 2). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans

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