Photography by Marco Panzetti
Text edited by Valeria Ferraro
A reportage on the search and rescue operations carried out in front of the Libyan coast by the Aquarius, a search and rescue vessel run by SOS Mediterranée and MSF Médicins Sans Frontières
According to the IOM (International Organization for Migration), from January to November 2016, 164.000 migrants arrived in Italy through the Central Mediterranean Route leaving by boats from Libyan coasts. During the same period, more than 4.200 people died in the attempt. These data show how dangerous is the route, one of the deadliest for migrants, and yet, a very popular one in as fluxes on the Balkan Route diminished, as a consequence of the agreement between the EU and Turkey.
When listening at them, migrants’ tales of their journey share many similarities: in order to reach Europe, thousands of men, women and children hailing from Sub-Saharan Africa put their life in the hands of merciless smugglers to try the desperate sea crossing towards Europe. After months of enslavement and violence in the Libyan hell, they are embarked in groups of 120-160 people in precarious, overloaded rubber boats that not even under the most favourable weather conditions would make it to Italy; thus, they are sent out to almost certain death. The life of the people on board depends, substantially, on sea rescue operations carried out both by independent organizations.
Managed by two NGOs, SOS Méditerranée and Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF), the rescue vessel Aquarius conducts migrants search and rescue operations (SAR) in the Mediterranean Sea, a few miles off the Libyan shores.
The team of SOS Mediterranée, mainly composed by sailors and lifeguard officers, is engaged with rescue operations, sighting of dinghies, approaching with rescue boats, transferring of migrants on the Aquarius. Workers and the medical personnel of Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF), instead, take care of migrants, once reached on board, providing them with food, medical and legal assistance.
Since the beginning of its mission, in February 2016, to September of the same year, the Aquarius team rescued more than 6.000 people; thus, showing the relevance of independent organizations in search and rescue operations.
Marco Panzetti - marcopanzetti.com