31/08: 38 persons in distress near Moroccan coast, rescued delayed by 20 hours

01.09.2017 / 19:09 / Western Mediterranean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 31st of August 2017

Case name: 2017_08_31-WM156
Situation: 38 persons in distress near Moroccan coast, rescued delayed by 20 hours
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Western Mediterranean Sea

Summary of the Case: On Thursday the 31st of August 2017, the Alarm Phone was in contact with a boat in distress with 38 people on board, among them were 7 women. They left from the town of Assilah, west of the Moroccan coast, at 4am CET. Their engine soon stopped working and they began drifting southerly. The passengers asked us to inform the Spanish rescue organization Salvamento Marítimo at 11am. Less than one hour later the situation in the boat was so bad that the passengers asked the Alarm Phone to inform the Moroccan Marine Royale. We did so at 11.45am. Neither the Moroccan nor the Spanish rescue authorities reacted, even though the passengers were in a high level of distress and a GPS position for the boat was available. The 38 travellers waited in the burning sun, many of them seasick, with their boat unable to move forward. As the Marine Royal refused to talk to us and gave no sign of reaction, at 1.30pm we informed again the Spanish coastguard by email: „Still the boat is in distress and we didn’t get any confirmation from Morocco that rescue or even search is ongoing. The people are in real danger. Please consider intervening from Spanish side.“ The Spanish authorities refused to intervene and the Moroccan authorities forwarded to us one telephone number after the other but still did not send a rescue boat to the place of distress. Around 3pm we decided to spread the alarm wider. We contacted the UNHCR in Spain and Morocco and spread the message in the networks, including other organisations as CEAR and APDHA to ask for urgent help and pressure for rescue. We sent out the urgent distress case via WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook and many groups and persons supported the distribution of the information. Finally this was successful. At 8pm, Salvamento Marítimo sent a helicopter for searching from Spain and they found the boat at 9pm. Salvamento Marítimo informed the Marine Royale. At 10.30pm they said that they would start the rescue operation. The people in the boat were still waiting. At 11.21pm, the passengers on the boat were panicking because the rubber boat was loosing a lot of air. The 38 people were suffering after more than 19 hours at sea without help. We demanded again to Salvamento Marítimo to operating rescue. They confirmed and sent a boat, which we could see moving at 11.30pm towards Assilah through the vessel tracking platform Marine Traffic. However, the boat of Salvamento Marítimo suddenly turned around and went towards Spain again. At midnight, we received the information that the passengers had been rescued by the Moroccan Marine Royale.
Last update: 10:16 Sep 07, 2017
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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