MSF crew on the Geo Barents help migrants in the Mediterranean in May 2022 | Source: Twitter feed @MSF_Sea
MSF crew on the Geo Barents help migrants in the Mediterranean in May 2022 | Source: Twitter feed @MSF_Sea

Three private rescue ships in the Mediterranean are now waiting for ports in which to disembark the more than 500 migrants they collectively rescued. Sea-Watch 4 has 145 on board, the Geo Barents 470, and 34 people are on deck the Sea-Eye 4.

In the last few days, several private rescue ships have carried out multiple operations in the Mediterranean between the Libyan Coast and the islands of Malta and Sicily. The Geo Barents, run by the humanitarian medical organization Doctors without Borders (MSF) currently has the greatest number on board.

"In the last three days, we rescued 470 people from drowning in the Mediterranean," begins a tweet posted on May 12 by MSF about its ship, Geo Barents.

The Geo Barents rescued many of those people in the Maltese Search and Rescue (SAR) zone, according to the crew. On May 11, Geo Barents already had 374 people on board ship. They posted pictures of two night rescues they conducted in a "five hour operation" in which they brought 111 survivors from two rubber boats.

A picture of a small child crying as they are lifted by a Geo Barents crew member to safety is caught in a spotlight in the middle of darkness, many more migrants wait quietly on the rubber boats, their eyes focused on the child and their rescuers.


On May 10, the MSF crew went to the aid of 59 people traveling on a rubber boat. Among those rescued on that boat, there wree "two people traveling with broken limbs," stated the crew.

A small child rescued by the crew of the Geo Barents during two night rescues, lasting five hours | Photo: Anna Pantelia / MSF / Twitter feed @MSF_Sea
A small child rescued by the crew of the Geo Barents during two night rescues, lasting five hours | Photo: Anna Pantelia / MSF / Twitter feed @MSF_Sea

Sea-Watch 4

Over on board the Sea-Watch 4, run by the private rescue organization Sea-Watch, a crew member called Rachele explains in a video posted on Twitter on May 11, that the 145 people on board their ship "urgently need a place of safety."

The Sea-Watch 4 crew, explains Rachele, rescued the 145 "during two operations last week." On May 10, she said the crew and migrants on board "had to witness an interception performed by the so-called Libyan coast guard who illegally returned to Libya 75 people."


This affected the migrants on board the Sea-Watch 4, said Rachele, because they had already "experienced the brutality of the so-called Libyan coast guard." Rachele added that another boat, which was spotted by the surveillance plane Colibri was helped too by their crew and those on board were then taken by the Italian coast guard and directly disembarked on Lampedusa.

The crew of the Sea-Watch 4 are calling for a port to be assigned to them too so they can disembark the 145 migrants they have on board. Their rescues took place on May 4 and May 9.

Sea-Eye 4

On the boat Sea-Eye 4, which took over 34 people who had been rescued by a container ship earlier this week, the crew is also asking, in German, on Twitter for a port in which to disembark those on board. On May 11, they tweeted: "Today, it will be the eighth night at sea that these people have experienced. That is long enough, they need a safe harbor now!"


According to the website Marine Traffic locator, at the time of writing, the Sea-Eye 4 was located just south of Sicily, not far from the harbor of Pozzallo where numerous disembarkations have taken place in the past.

The Geo Barents, according to the same website, is west of Malta but looks like it is headed in the direction of Sicily further north east. And the Sea-Watch 4 looks like it is very close to the Sicilian southern coast, headed west along it.

The Ocean Viking and the Sea-Watch 3 look like they are currently in port, after having disembarked the people they rescued in the last couple of weeks. According to the humanitarian rescue organization SOS Mediterranee which runs Ocean Viking, in the last two weeks, "500 people have been illegally returned to Libya."

The Marine Traffic website logs the position of the Geo Barents at time of writing, west of Malta | Source: Marine Traffic  (www.marinetraffic.com)
The Marine Traffic website logs the position of the Geo Barents at time of writing, west of Malta | Source: Marine Traffic (www.marinetraffic.com)

Eyes on the Med

SOS Mediterranee publishes a regular update of what is going on in the Mediterranean via its Eyes on the Central Med blog post. The latest one was posted on May 11 and covers events up to May 10.

On two occasions, during the last two weeks, states the report, "a Libyan patrol vessel navigated at close distance from NGO vessels (Sea-eye 4 on May 4 and Geo Barents on May 9). Such a close encounter with a Libyan coast guard vessel had also occurred twice with the Ocean Viking at the end of April."

There have been at least two deaths in the Mediterranean in the last two weeks. On May 5, the Italian coast guard rescued 109 people after their yacht overturned off the Calabrian coast. Two bodies were recovered from this incident, and other people may be missing.

If you would like to hear more about what it is like on board the rescue ships, you can listen to our podcast Tales from the Border

🎧 Subscribe to Tales from the Border, and listen to previous episodes here.

 

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