A report by 'Watch the Med Alarm Phone' about a case from January 8th 2015. Refugees on a boat in the Central Mediterranean Sea called the Alarm Phone to be rescued.
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Report by :: "Watch the Med Alarm Phone" from January 15th 2015.
Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigation - 08 January 2015
Case name: 2015_01_08-CM4
Situation: Refugee vessel in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea
Status of WTM Investigation: Ongoing (latest information received on the 14th of January 2015)
Time and Place of Incident: Central Mediterranean Sea
Brief Summary of the Case: The Alarm Phone shift team received a direct call from a refugee vessel in the Central Mediterranean Sea seeking to reach Italy. The refugees were asking to be rescued by Italian coastguards and the shift team reached out to the MRCC Rome. The officer in charge suggested that Libyan authorities should conduct a rescue operation. In several phone calls with the refugees, more information was obtained and then passed on to the Italian coastguards. Responding to their unwillingness to cooperate with the shift team, the Alarm Phone alerted its members and other networks to prompt the Italian coastguards to conduct rescue procedures. The Italian authorities later confirmed that an operation had been underway since the afternoon of that day.
Summary of the Case: On the morning of Thursday the 8th of January 2015, the shift team of the Alarm Phone received a direct phone call from a refugee boat located in the Central Mediterranean Sea, seeking to reach Italy. The passengers informed the shift team that 107 persons from several countries, amongst them Syria, Somalia, Palestine and possibly Algeria were on board, including men, women and children. The initial connection was lost and several calls were interrupted before the shift team was able to reach them on their Thuraya satellite phone. The refugees stated that they had left Libya and asked the shift team to notify the Italian coastguards. They were unable, however, to provide their coordinates.
The shift team reached out to the Italian coastguards and passed on the satellite phone number from the boat. The Italian officer in charge refused to provide the shift team with his name, stated that he could not do anything else and suggested to call again if more information were obtained.
The shift team was able to reach the refugees on the Thuraya phone and received their coordinates. In several phone calls (11:00-13:30h), more information was gathered. They stated that at least one pregnant woman was amongst the passengers. Following the refugees' account, the condition of the vessel was fine but they had run out of food and water. They also said that they could see a big ship but were unable to ascertain its identity.
The shift team called the Italian coastguards again and offered to provide them with the coordinates. The Italian officer stated that they had already obtained the coordinates and were aware of the boat but were dealing also with another vessel in distress. Referring to the location of the refugee vessel close to Libyan waters, he then expressed his incomprehension that the shift team would not alert Libyan authorities. In a third call to the coastguards, the officer stated that he needed more information about the vessel in vicinity and that the refugees should try to move to that vessel.
In several phone calls with the refugees, the passengers reported that water was coming into the vessel, that they had no fuel left and that they were running out of battery. There were conflicting accounts concerning the location and time of their departure from Libya. They did not want the shift team to notify the Libyan authorities. In a phone call at 15:46h, the passengers said that a helicopter was approaching them. They seemed relieved and stated that they would not have to provide coordinates anymore. They thanked the shift team and said goodbye. After this call, the shift team was unable to reach the refugees anymore.
A second Alarm Phone shift team began to work on the case but was unable to reach the passengers. The shift team called the Italian coastguards repeatedly, asking for further information but was told to contact the Italian Ministry of Interior. While the number given by the coastguards led to the Ministry, the shift team was asked to call another phone number that, however, did not work. The shift team was unable to reach anyone after that.
The shift team wrote an email at 18:28h to the MRCC Rome, informing them about the obtained coordinates and demanding a rescue operation. Soon afterwards, the shift team went public via social media and alerted various Alarm Phone members as well as other networks to the case, asking them to reach out to the coastguards to urge them to rescue.
At 21:35h, the coastguards passed on information to a network working in cooperation with the Alarm Phone, stating that "the case [xxx] is under control and not yet finished". The shift team sought to reach the refugees on the boat but with no success. At 22:52h, the shift team called the coastguards once again and obtained the confirmation that a rescue operation had been underway since the afternoon already.
On the 8th of January, several refugee vessels were in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea and the Alarm Phone also dealt with another case of distress. The shift team was alerted by Father Mussie Zerai at 11:29h to a vessel in distress with approximately 200 people on board. The vessel had left Libya and was on its way to Lampedusa, carrying men, women, and children from different countries. The shift team tried to contact the passengers on a Thuraya satellite phone but could not reach them. The shift team sent a text message to the phone offering the refugees the option to get in touch with the Alarm Phone so that its shift team could inform the media and other political networks in case Italian authorities were unwilling to rescue. However, contact to the vessel was lost. At 16:30h, the MRCC Rome confirmed that all people from this vessel in distress had been rescued.
According to the Italian navy, several rescue operations were conducted on that day. Following official tweeds posted by the Italian navy, the Italian navy vessel LIBRA took on board 373 refugees, 105 miles South of Lampedusa. In rescue operations the cargo vessel BOURBON ARGOS had rescued 163 refugees and the naval vessel MAESTRALE 210 refugees who were then transferred to the LIBRA. Following these official sources, all 373 refugees were transferred to Sicily where they arrived on the 10th of January. In addition, and following Rai News, there were further rescue operations: The trawler COUGAR rescued 74 refugees who were brought to Lampedusa and then to Sicily, the trawler GAGLIARDO rescued 70 refugees and the cargo vessel OCTOPUS 77 refugees.
This means that approximately 700 people were rescued on the 8th of January in the Central Mediterranean Sea.