More then 362,376 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean sea this year (2016), at least 5000 died or went missing (UNHCR numbers as of December 2016).
24 nautical miles off the coast of Libya — in the area known as the “rescue zone” — the tiny, overloaded wooden and rubber dinghies carrying migrants across the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe have been drifting at sea for hours. Passengers may have fainted from the heat, or from engine fumes. Tensions are usually running high, and one wrong movement could cause the crowded boats to capsize.
The world currently faces its largest global displacement crisis since WWII. The European migrant crisis continues with rising number of refugees and migrants making the journey to the European Union to seek asylum, both by sea and land. the central Mediterranean route from north Africa (usually Libya) to Italy is considered the most dangerous route with more than 23.000 people dead Since the year 2000.
Sea Watch, a small German NGO helping with rescue operations off the coast of Libya, has a number of rules for how to proceed in these crucial moments: Always approach a boat from behind. Never approach with a large ship — it’s too tempting a target for desperate passengers who have been at sea for hours, and who may fling themselves overboard in an attempt to reach safety. Always bring along a volunteer whose sole task is communication: reassuring those aboard these migrant boats that their ordeal is over, that everyone is safe now — if only they can all just stay calm.
Migration to Europe has slowed dramatically since 2015, when more than 1 million new arrivals applied for asylum on the continent. The slowdown comes as a result of the deal struck between the European Union and Turkey last spring, which effectively shut down travel across the Aegean from the Middle East to Europe. But travel across the Mediterranean via Libya is ongoing and as dangerous as ever.