FAIRFIELD, United States; Save the Children’s search and rescue ship, the Vos Hestia, is returning to Italy with more than 200 refugees and migrants rescued in two separate operations off the North African coast. Sadly, among them are the bodies of five people who perished before rescuers could reach the first boat in distress.
“We received a call to assist in the rescue of a wooden boat in distress,” said Gillian Moyes, Save the Children’s team leader on the Vos Hestia. “When we arrived on the scene, five people had already died. The bodies and the survivors were transferred onto our ship from a navy vessel.”
The Vos Hestia was then called to assist in a second rescue, which took place over several hours at night. In total, more than 200 people were brought on board, including pregnant women, and a large number of lone children and families with children as young as one year old.
“This tragic event once again highlights the dangers faced by those crossing the Mediterranean Sea to seek the safety of Europe,” added Ms. Moyes.
“So far in 2016, more than 3,600 people have drowned while attempting this treacherous journey. The continuing loss of life clearly shows how search and rescue operations capacity must be a primary focus of the European response to save all lives at risk.”
Save the Children has provided fresh water, food and blankets to everyone on board. The survivors of the first rescue, in particular, are being assisted by the medical and child protection teams to ensure they receive the specific support they need following such a harrowing event.
Vos Hestia will arrive at the port of Catania in Sicily on October 21. Save the Children staff will be present to help with the disembarkation process and will continue to work to ensure children have access to their basic needs and rights.