Monica Pinna has lived for eleven days on the Humanity 1 boat. The German NGO SOS Humanity invited her to set sail on their ‘rescue boat’, while a record number of migrants try to reach European shores. The journalist’s mission was to tell the story of a rescue ‘from the inside’.
In this episode of the Euronews-WITNESS program, Monica Pinna’s reporter accompanies a rescue team from an NGO, whose mission is to save the lives of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. This immersive report takes viewers behind the scenes of a rescue operation.
Monica has lived for eleven days on the Humanity 1 boat. The German NGO SOS Humanity invited her to set sail on their ‘rescue boat’, while a record number of migrants try to reach European shores. The journalist’s mission was to tell the story of a rescue ‘from within’, to tell the stories of those who make it possible, and of the emigrants who flee their respective countries.
There are highly qualified professionals, of thirteen different nationalities, in the crew of the Humanity 1. What leads them all to embark?
“I have been traveling across borders since 2015. At first, I did it as a volunteer,” explains Italian Protection Officer Sara. “After several years of experience in Greece, on the border with Turkey, I felt the need to better understand the central Mediterranean border. As an anthropologist, I think it is really important to deal with these people in a concrete way,” she adds.
Five days into the trip, Monica, along with the rest of the crew, wakes up navigating the deadliest migratory route to Europe: the ‘central Mediterranean route’. Two days later, the crew members spot a boat in distress.
The crew rescues fifty-seven people. They are all men, and the majority come from Bangladesh. They had begun their journey in Libya, the night before the rescue.
Since 2014, more than 22,000 people have died or gone missing trying to cross the ‘central Mediterranean route’. This year, departures from Tunisia have multiplied by six, compared to 2022. Arrivals to Italy have skyrocketed, and at the same time, the number of people who die in their attempt to reach European shores is increasing.
“Since the beginning of the year, more than 2,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea or have disappeared. This is a figure that we have not seen since 2017,” says Camilla, Communication coordinator at Humanity 1.
Within the NGO SOS Humanity they point out that there is a desperate need to establish an effective European program for search and rescue in the Central Mediterranean. In addition, they remember that rescue operations suffered a new blow, at the beginning of 2023. The Italian Government imposed a new code of conduct on NGOs.
‘Civilian rescue ships’ are fined, or detained, if they carry out more than one rescue at a time. Additionally, they are often assigned a distant safe port for the people they have ‘rescued’ to disembark.
“Sometimes, NGO ships are sent to ports located 1,400 or 1,600 kilometers away, which keeps us out of the area of operations for days on end,” explains communications coordinator Camilla.
After carrying out the rescue in which the Euronews journalist participated, the Humanity 1 sails for four days, over a thousand kilometers, from the rescue site to the ‘safety port’, in this case Livorno.
“In Europe, discussions about migrants often revolve around numbers. How many arrive? How many die? For me, it was just people carrying heavy loads,” says Monica Pinna.
Some have traveled for years to reach this part of Europe.
Statistics show that only a small number of those who arrive will manage to remain legally in Europe. Many will be returned to ‘square one’.
Meanwhile, the Humanity 1 is ready to set sail again to rescue other migrants fleeing poverty, war and despair. Ultimately, this is an ‘endless cycle’.