Two vessels in distress - both rescued one day after another tragedy in the Central Med

23.07.2015 / 16:24 / Central Mediterranean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigation – 23rd of July 2015

Case name: 2015_07_23-CM35
Situation: Two distress cases in the Central Mediterranean Sea, rescued
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Central Mediterranean Sea

Yet again, people died when trying to overcome the Central Mediterranean Sea. Following accounts of some of the survivors, their vessel had capsized soon after leaving the Libyan coast this week, on Wednesday the 22nd of July 2015 (source 1). Up to 40 people, and including at least seven children, went missing and are presumed dead. By closing down possibilities for safe and legal entry into Europe, the EU border regime reinforces precarious sea migration and is directly responsibility for the death of these 40 travellers.

Summary of the Case: A day after this tragedy, on Thursday the 23rd of July, our Alarm Phone shift team was contacted by Father Mussie Zerai who alerted us to an emergency situation in the Central Mediterranean Sea (vessel 1). Around noon, he passed on a satellite phone number and stated that there were approximately 450 people on board of a vessel in distress. Despite several attempts, we could not reach them. We were able, however to upload credit onto their satellite phone so that they could continue to make use of it. The received information were also passed on to the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome. We contacted the crew of the civilian rescue vessel Sea Watch but they were already involved in another rescue operation and could not engage. Members of the Sea Watch, in turn, informed us about another satellite phone number that they got hold of where it was unclear whether it was from the vessel they were engaged with or yet another distress situation (vessel 2).

For several hours, travellers of both vessels could not be reached. At about 4.30pm, MRCC Rome confirmed that a rescue operation was taking place for vessel 1 and that they had localised vessel 2 and were now trying to begin a rescue operation. At 6.15pm, they reported that the rescue of vessel 2 was ongoing. Afterwards, MRCC Rome was unwilling to provide us with updates on both cases. In the evening, at around 10.30pm, our shift team turned to the Maltese coastguards who then finally confirmed that the travellers from both vessels had been rescued.

On the day (and potentially concerning the second vessel that the Alarm Phone had sought to contact), the Sea Watch supported the cargo vessel ‘Shaya’ in a rescue operation. They took on 104 people, including 25 women and 3 little children. The crew of the Shaya did their very best in these precarious circumstances to care for the boat-people. However, they were not adequately equipped to fully support the weakened travellers and so it was important to quickly disembark the passengers in Italy. When the Shaya arrived in Sicily they were made to wait for more than 24 hours before being allowed to disembark. It is wholly unacceptable that Italian authorities, which coordinated the rescue operation and advised the crew of the Shaya to intervene in the first place, unnecessarily delayed disembarkation and therewith the medical care the travellers desperately needed. Moreover, it is absolutely inadequate that commercial vessels need to conduct these rescue operations while there are dozens of fully equipped naval vessels of the EU military mission Eunavfor Med and the Frontex operation Triton in the Central Mediterranean Sea.
Last update: 16:26 Jul 25, 2015
Credibility: UP DOWN 0
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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