MSF Rescues 1,658 People in the Mediterranean in One Day

Anna Surinyach/MSF

On September 2, the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) boats Dignity I and Bourbon Argos—together with the MY Phoenix, operated jointly with the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS)—rescued 1,658 people, making it MSF’s busiest day on the Mediterranean Sea since operations began in May. In six separate rescue operations, the three search and rescue vessels brought on board people primarily from Eritrea, Nigeria, and Somalia, including 547 women and 199 children, toddlers and babies among them.

Beginning at 7:00 a.m., when the Bourbon Argos rescued 353 people from a wooden boat in the international waters north of Zuwara, the day continued with the Dignity I rescuing three inflatable boats with a total of 323 people onboard. Later, the Bourbon Argos rescued another wooden boat, bringing a further 650 people on board, and finally the MY Phoenix rescued 332 Eritreans from a wooden boat in the early afternoon.

Among the people rescued by the Bourbon Argos was a pregnant woman who went into labor soon after being picked up. MSF decided to call for an evacuation, and she was transferred to a speed boat operated by the Italian Coast Guard and brought to a hospital.

“Yesterday was a day of big numbers for MSF’s search and rescue operations, but for our teams at sea the focus is always on the individuals,” said Lindis Hurum, MSF emergency coordinator on the Bourbon Argos. “My most touching memory from yesterday would be of Senait, a young Ethiopian woman who—at eight months pregnant—went into labor just after she was rescued.

"Like any father to be, excited and nervous about the birth of his first child, her husband Joseph did not leave her side. The young couple was medically evacuated to allow Senait to deliver her baby safely in Italy. Our team is now anxiously awaiting news of the baby’s arrival.”

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Men rescued from inflatable boats in the Mediterranean are taken to board MSF's Dignity I vessel
Anna Surinyach/MSF