MSF Bolsters Mediterranean Search and Rescue

MSF/Juan Carlos Tomasi

BARCELONA/NEW YORK—The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today launched an additional search and rescue boat in the Mediterranean Sea, to assist people during their attempts to reach Europe while fleeing war, persecution, and poverty.

Sailing today from the port of Barcelona, the boat, a 50-meter-long vessel named Dignity I, has an 18-person crew, including MSF medical personnel. It can accommodate up to 300 people rescued at sea.

“What we are witnessing in the Mediterranean Sea is a humanitarian crisis,” said Paula Farias, MSF operational manager aboard Dignity I. “This rescue mission might seem different from our usual projects, in that it takes place at sea, but our priority is the same as in South Sudan or Syria—to save lives.”

The boat will bolster MSF’s current search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea. The MY Phoenix, operated by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), which has MSF medical personnel on board to provide post-rescue care, was launched on May 2 and has so far rescued 1,789 people. The Argos, run solely by MSF, began operating on May 9, and has so far rescued 1,242 people.

Most of those rescued disembark in Italy, where MSF teams provide medical care in the main reception center in Pozzallo in Ragusa Province, Sicily. It also provides psychological support in all secondary reception centers in the province. A psychological first-aid team, composed of cultural mediators and a psychologist, can be deployed to different landing ports in Italy within 72 hours after receiving an alert of acute psychological needs among those rescued at sea.

“The number of people trying to cross the Mediterranean is likely to rise even higher in the coming weeks with the settled summer weather,” said Farias. “We need a strong operation to be able to assist them and prevent the Mediterranean from turning into a graveyard.”

Preparations on the MSF ship Dignity I at Barcelona port. The Dignity I has a crew of 18, including medical staff. The 50 metre-long vessel will leave the port of Barcelona on mid-June and has the capacity to carry 300 rescuees. A third search, rescue and medical care boat, with teams from MSF will assist people trying to reach Europe by sea in a bid to escape war, persecution and poverty at home.
MSF/Juan Carlos Tomasi