After being nominated by the German Greens delegation in the European Parliament, SOS Méditerranée will finally be awarded the 2016 European Citizen’s Prize.
Faced with shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea, SOS Méditerranée conducts rescue operations and testifies about the realities of those fleeing. SOS Méditerranée has been sailing the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Aquarius since February 2016, saving more than 4 600 people from distress at sea. During a lunchtime exchange of views on Thursday 13 October, at the European Parliament, captain Klaus Vogel, chairperson and founder of SOS Méditerranée, will present pictures taken aboard the Aquarius, providing a moving testimony to the NGO’s mission and achievements.
It has been exactly three years since hundreds of people drowned off the Italian coast in one of the Mediterranean’s biggest recorded shipwrecks. Over 300 people, most of them from Eritrea, never reached Europe.
During a rescue operation last Monday, more than 700 refugees from Eritrea were taken on board the Aquarius. Hundreds more were being rescued and assisted by other organisations in a number of other rescue operations. More than a fourth are unaccompanied minors.
Following the bad weather of the past couple of days that made it impossible for boats to leave Libyan shores towards Europe, the Aquarius had two operations that weekend. On 2 October, its crew, in cooperation with another ship, rescued 167 people off a rubber boat,
“Normally the number of people that we rescue from a rubber boat is between 120 to 130. The conditions on board the boat with over 160 people must have been disastrous,” says captain Klaus Vogel.
Early on 3 October, the Aquarius received a call for its next operation: over 720 people were saved, this time from an overcrowded wooden boat that had several levels and thus more space than the usual rubber dinghies. The rescue operation was supported by the ship Astral, run by “Proactive Open Arms”, a further ship run by Doctors without Borders, and another rescue boat, the Seawatch2.
Rescuers say the numbers of unaccompanied minors are rising. This time, there were 179 under the age of 18, attempting the journey across the Mediterannean without a parent or guardian. The operation was the 30th rescue in which SOS Méditerranée was involved and has increased the number of people that the organisation has rescued or attended to, to over 7.000.