“It was either Europe or death.”: One refugee family’s desperate search for safety

Doctor Pierre-Eric Vachaud, part of the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) search and rescue team on the Mediterranean Sea, recounts the heartbreaking experience of a refugee family he cared for in 2016.

Vachaud says he’ll never forget the painful story of what drove them to flee for their lives, and the tragic consequences of their desperate attempt to find safety. “There have been so many questions and criticisms: ‘Do we need to help them?’” he says. “Just think: They are human beings.”

Since 2015, MSF’s search and rescue vessels—the Bourbon Argos, Dignity, Prudence and Phoenix—have rescued or assisted more than 80,000 people in the Mediterranean Sea. Despite recent efforts of other NGOs at sea, today there are only a few dedicated rescue boats operating in the central Mediterranean.