The Red Cross is launching its first search and rescue ship in a bid to save the lives of people crossing the Mediterranean in search of refuge and safety in Europe.
The Italian Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), is partnering with independent charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) in a joint life-saving mission on board the “Responder” rescue ship this week.
The Responder will patrol the Central Mediterranean route between north Africa and Italy where the majority of the 3,100 drownings this year have occurred.
“Too many, far too many children, women and men are drowning in the Mediterranean as they try to reach Europe in search of safety and dignity,” said Elhadj As Sy, IFRC Secretary General. “This is unacceptable, and we must stop it. This vessel is a buoy of hope that will save lives and alleviate human suffering.”
94,000 arrivals so far this year
Italy is currently the primary entry point for migrants heading to Europe, with more than 94,000 arrivals in 2016.
MOAS founder Christopher Catrambone said: “Search and rescue at sea is vital to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe that has been going on for too long.
“It is obvious this is not a solution to this global phenomenon. It urgently requires an international response but through this partnership with the Red Cross, we are making a significant contribution to saving lives.”
The Responder is expected to rescue at least 1,100 people every month. Red Cross volunteers and staff on board will provide post-rescue support including first aid, medical care, food, dry clothes, blankets and toiletries. The recently increased IFRC emergency appeal for Italy – which is seeking 9.5 million Swiss francs – will fund the running costs of the boat.
The first team on the Responder will comprise of nurses and a doctor from the Italian Red Cross.
“Without political solutions to the problems that force people to leave their homes, people will continue to pay the price of safety with their lives,” said Francesco Rocca, President of the Italian Red Cross.
“Governments have a responsibility to work towards addressing some of the root causes forcing people to leave their homes, and safe and legal avenues for migration must be prioritized.”
In addition to search and rescue, the Italian Red Cross is supporting migrants across the country with food, clothes and toiletries, first aid, basic health care, psychosocial support and hygiene promotion. Red Cross volunteers and staff are also reconnecting families separated by the journey. The Italian Red Cross plans to extend its system of ‘Safe Points’, which support people outside of reception centres to access local services.