GENEVA: The Red Cross said on Monday it would send teams for migrant rescue missions in the Mediterranean as deaths soar, and launched an emergency appeal for funds.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said its teams would join the maritime and humanitarian crew on the Ocean Viking rescue ship, operated by NGO SOS Mediterranee, from next month.
“It is unacceptable that people are still dying at sea, on Europe’s doorstep,” IFRC President Francesco Rocca said in a statement.
“This is a clear failure of the international community.”
Since the start of summer, the number of crossings have increased as migrants take advantage of the good weather and calmer seas, but the numbers of those lost at sea has also risen.
It is unacceptable that people are still dying at sea, on Europe’s doorstep.
Francesco Rocca, IFRC president
Already, 792 people are known to have died along that route during the first half of this year — three times as many as during the same period in 2020, IFRC said, stressing that the actual number of deaths was likely far higher.
The route between Libya and Europe is considered the most dangerous one across the Mediterranean, where 955 people are known to have died so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.
The IFRC teams joining the SOS Mediterranee crew will provide “post-rescue support, including first aid, medical care, psychological support, food, dry clothes, blankets, toiletries and information” to those rescued, the statement said. Medical doctors, a midwife and professionals who can provide psychological support and assistance to the most vulnerable, including unaccompanied minors, will be part of the team, IFRC said.
The organization said it had launched an emergency appeal for 2.0 million Swiss francs ($2.2 million, €1.8 million) to support the operation.
Rocca said the IFRC was “proud to start this new mission, but we also call on the EU and its member states to urgently increase search and rescue operations.”
Caroline Abu Sa’Da, head of SOS Mediterranee’s Swiss branch, hailed the new partnership but insisted European countries needed to do far more.
“International humanitarian organizations such as ours are only plugging the rescue gap left by states in the area,” she said in the statement. “It is not enough.”
“To save as many lives as possible, we urgently need a coalition of European states and maritime actors willing to conduct lawful and humane rescue operations.”
SOS Mediterranee and others have charged that EU governments are neglecting coordinated search-and-rescue action in a bid to discourage migrants from attempting the crossing from war-torn Libya, where they are often victims of organizsed crime and militia violence.