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01 Sep

Mediterranean Rescue Teams Stretched Beyond Their Means

The International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) is re-launching its ‘Members Assisting Members’ webpage to help identify the needs and enable connection to the contacts on the database that may be able to help the non-governmental organisations carrying out rescues of migrant and refugees in the Mediterranean.

The three NGOs operating in the Mediterranean who have been in contact with the IMRF are the Hellenic Rescue team, who are saving refugees in the waters around Greece and Turkey; the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), who have so far rescued and assisted 7,792 people this year (10,792 since August 2014) and the German rescuers, Sea-Watch, who need a re-supply of life-rafts.

The NGO’s are in urgent need of support because they are struggling to keep up with the replacement of equipment being used to rescue the increasing numbers of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean.

“The increasing number of migrants, who are fleeing countries on overcrowded, often unsafe vessels, is clearly having an impact on the resources and capability of Mediterranean Rescue Services,” Said Bruce Reid, the IMRF’s CEO. “They need urgent help and we are reaching out to the maritime search and rescue (SAR) community to get their support – mainly for equipment.” The Hellenic Rescue team of 2,000 volunteer rescuers in Greece are looking for lifejackets, helmets, dry suits equipment for their lifeboats as well as hoping to increase their response capability by securing some additional 6-10m lifeboats. With a massive increase in call outs due to rescuing migrants in distress on their waters, supplies are getting low and fundraising in Greece is difficult at present. Similarly, MOAS has extended the time it is patrolling and is also starting to feel the squeeze. The team needs to replace VHF and UHF radios, SAR helmets and SAR lifejackets for the crew. Sea-Watch is also in need of lifejackets as well as inflatable rafts to help keep the people afloat until rescue services arrive. Georgios Kalogeropoulos from the Hellenic Rescue team said the work of their volunteers in Mytilini, Samos and Kos has been intensified in the last few months.

“Our branch in Mytilini has taken part in 141 SAR missions from February through to the end of May, while our station in Samos has helped more than 110 SAR missions from January to the end of May,” said Kalogeropoulos. He added that volunteers in Kos had participated in more than 70 missions in the last year and that 60,000 refugees had arrived in Mytilini, Kos, Lesvos and Samos in the past six months. Davide De Bernardin of MOAS said their rescues are always conducted in the most professional and safe way, but he had written to the IMRF because the latest rescues are being even more perilous and there is a new requirement for equipment.

”In what was only the Organisation’s second coordinated Search and Rescue patrol in the Central Mediterranean, the vessel took part in five rescue operations in as many days. We rendered assistance to over 600 people during this period utilising all available Search and Rescue equipment at our disposal – including 6 x 65 person life rafts,” Harald Hoppner, Founder of Sea Watch, said.

”The Organisation now needs to replenish its stocks and we would be most grateful if you could assist with the procurement of life rafts. Specifically we deployed with the Beaufort 130 ORL life raft which we found to be very reliable and practicable in the circumstances.”

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