Life-saving mission begins in the Mediterranean as Red Cross launches rescue boat

Topics: Middle East and North Africa, Migrant and Refugee Services, Refugee Crisis
By Nichola Jones, IFRC | August 16, 2016

Responder rescue ship.

The recently launched Responder, which is patrolling the Mediterranean, made its first rescue Aug. 10, 2016. Staff from MOAS and the Italian Red Cross rescued 327 people from four boats, including 19 children and 104 women. Photo: Yara Nardi / Italian Red Cross


The Red Cross has launched its first search and rescue ship in a bid to save the lives of people crossing the Mediterranean seeking 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.

The Responder set sail from MOAS’s base in Malta on August 9 to begin its first 21-day patrol of the central Mediterranean route between North Africa and Italy where the majority of the 3,100 drownings this year have occurred.

“Children, women and men are drowning in the Mediterranean every day 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.”

Italy is currently the primary entry point for migrants heading to Europe, with more than 99,000 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 Italian Red Cross, we are making a significant contribution to saving lives.”

The Responder in now en route to its patrol area and is scheduled to begin responding to boats in distress on 11 August. It is estimated that at least 1,100 people will be rescued every month. Those picked up by the Responder will be taken to safety at ports on Italy’s mainland and Sicily.

Italian Red Cross volunteers and staff on board will provide post-rescue support including first aid, medical care, food, dry clothes, blankets and toiletries. The first team will include a doctor, two nurses, a logistics coordinator and a cultural mediator to provide translation, information and other support.

Francesco Rocca, President of the Italian Red Cross, said that while the search and rescue operations are vital, world leaders have a responsibility to step-up and offer protection and dignity to people escaping poverty and violence.

“Without political solutions to the problems that force people to leave their homes, families will continue to pay the price of safety with their lives,” he said.

“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.”

Canadians who wish to support Red Cross efforts in addressing the issue of migration globally are encouraged to make a donation to the Canadian Red Cross International Disaster Relief Fund. This fund allows us to accelerate our response in disasters and directly help the most vulnerable during times of emergencies.
Your support provides us with dedicated funds to respond immediately following a disaster with essential supplies and trained personnel, so that we are able to save lives and ease suffering.

Migrant and Refugee Services in Canada

The Canadian Red Cross provides a range of migrant and refugee services in Canada and is committed to helping new Canadian arrivals find the resources they need. The Canadian Red Cross Restoring Family Links program helps people in Canada re-establish contact with immediate family members after separation due to armed conflict, natural disaster, migration and other humanitarian crises.

Other programs include  24/7 emergency telephone services for those in need of immediate shelter assistance as well as SmartStart First Aid Training for those whose first language may not be English or French.

Learn more about how the Canadian Red Cross assists and supports newly arrived migrants and refugees.