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Geneva/Malta, September 2, 2016 – A year to the day since images of little Alan Kurdi captured global attention, the need for search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea is increasing.
Search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean is set to double as the Responder rescue ship rejoins its sister ship, the Phoenix, in the wake of the spiraling number of sea rescues in recent days.
“Twelve months on from the tragic death of Alan Kurdi, the humanitarian situation in and around the Mediterranean remains desperate,” says Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
“We are receiving almost daily reports of new drownings, new tragedies that go unnoticed and unremarked. We will continue to do all we can to support all those in need, while reiterating our call to all parties for meaningful long-term solutions to this crisis.”
Calmer seas over the past week have seen an increase in the number of people risking the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean to seek safety in Europe.
In the past two days alone, rescuers on the Phoenix saved 824 people trying to cross the Mediterranean in flimsy crafts without enough fuel or water. Yesterday (1 Sept) they rescued 414 people, including 134 from a sinking rubber boat. The previous day, they saved 410 frightened passengers—all from West and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The much larger Responder vessel will bolster the effort, after leaving its base in Malta this morning to patrol the central Mediterranean route between North Africa and Italy where the majority of the estimated 3,100 drownings this year have occurred. The Responder was in port for four days to resupply and change Red Cross teams.
The life-saving missions of the Phoenix and Responder are a partnership between the Italian Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), an independent charity.
On the Responder, IFRC aid workers from Italy, Switzerland and New Zealand provide post-rescue support including first aid, medical care, food, water, dry clothes and blankets. On the Phoenix, post-rescue care is carried out by Italian Red Cross volunteers and staff.
An updated IFRC emergency appeal for the Italian Red Cross of 9.5 million Swiss francs will fund the running costs of the Responder and the Phoenix as well as humanitarian aid programmes for migrants in Italy.