Doctors Without Borders -- an international medical humanitarian organization also known as Médecins Sans Frontières -- launched a search and rescue boat in the Mediterranean Sea to help migrants attempting flee to Europe, mainly from Africa and the Middle East. The organization said in a press release the boat will work to assist people in their attempts to flee war, persecution and poverty.
“What we are witnessing in the Mediterranean Sea is a humanitarian crisis,” said Paula Farias, Doctors Without Borders operational manager aboard the boat. “This rescue mission might seem different from our usual projects, in that it takes place at sea, but our priority is the same as in South Sudan or Syria -- to save lives.”
The boat sailed Saturday from the port of Barcelona. Named the Dignity I, it can fit an 18-person crew and can accommodate 300 people rescued at sea, the organization said. There has been an uptick in rescues in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 and the summer months bring calmer waters that make crossings more frequent. More than 2,000 migrants were rescued June 6, Reuters reported. More than 4,200 were rescued at the end of May, Reuters said. There were 46,500 sea arrivals in Italy during the first five months of the year, a 12 percent increase from the same period in 2014, according to the June report. Italy expects more than 200,000 migrant arrivals in 2015 compared with 170,000 in 2014, the report said.
Rescue operations often involve collaboration from boats from numerous organizations and countries. Doctors Without Borders is already involved in running search and rescue operations for two boats in the Mediterranean Sea. It assists the MY Phoenix, operated by Migrant Offshore Aid Station, and runs a boat called The Argos. The Argos has been in operation since May 9 and has rescued 1,242 people, according to the organization. The MY Phoenix reportedly has rescued 1,789 people since its launch May 2. Most of the migrants who are rescued disembark in Italy where Doctors Without Borders provides medical care, the organization said. The organization suggested the addition of the boat is strongly needed with the summer months ahead.
“The number of people trying to cross the Mediterranean is likely to rise even higher in the coming weeks with the settled summer weather,” Farias said. “We need a strong operation to be able to assist them and prevent the Mediterranean from turning into a graveyard.”