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Off the coast of Libya, European navies united to save more than 4000 migrants from the waters

(credit: Bundeswehr)
(credit: Bundeswehr)

(BRUSSELS2) Over the past 36 hours in the Mediterranean, rescue at sea has taken place at a frantic pace.

The various navies mobilized in the Mare Nostrum came to the aid of a good around twenty of boats, recovering more than 4000 migrants and refugees, for the single day of Friday (May 29), most often not far from the Libyan coast (30 or 40 nautical miles); while several hundred others had already been recovered on Thursday (May 28). However, 17 deaths were reported, who died in several small, crowded inflatable boats.

Many ships of the Italian Navy were mobilized — the corvette Fenice (F-557), the frigate Bersaglière (F-584), the patrol Bettica (P-492) — as well as coast guard ships but the German, British, Irish and Belgian navies were also there. Some as part of Frontex’s Operation Triton (Germans/Belgians), the others bilaterally (Irish/British).

880 people recovered by the Hessen

The German navy frigate, the Hessen was successively engaged in six rescue operations. On the morning of May 29, the frigate Hessen (F-221) was notified by the Italian Sea Rescue Center (MRCC) in Rome that a vessel in distress was reported approximately 30 nautical miles northwest of Abu Kammash (Libya). 104 people were on board a crowded boat, including 24 women and five children. In the immediate vicinity, another boat with 103 people on board was recovered, including a woman and two children. In the afternoon, another 100 people on board a boat, including nine women and three children, were being treated. The officer of the watch then signaled a distress signal. In this 4th boat, 69 people, including 22 women, were recovered. The day was not over. The MRCC of Rome reported to the Hessen a fifth boat with 114 people in distress, including nine women. “During this rescue – mentions the Bundeswehr press release – a sixth boat approached. German soldiers took all 100 people on board, including 13 women and five children. Finally, in the evening, the frigate Hessen came to the rescue of a wooden boat in distress with 290 people, including 40 women and 12 children. In total, 880 people found themselves on board the frigate Hessen, including 118 women and 27 children. Direction: an Italian port to be taken care of by the Italian authorities. Specify that " all the makeshift boats were destroyed " because " classified as an obstacle to the navy”.

370 by HMS Bulwark of the Royal Navy

Le HMS Bulwark (L-15), had already recovered on Thursday (May 28) 369 refugees, including 50 children, embarked in a wooden walnut hull, threatened with a “ impending sinking ", off the Libyan coast, the Royal Navy is told. This is the third rescue carried out by this British assault ship since the start of its “Mediterranean campaign”. The British launched five of their eight landing craft – each converted into a lifeboat, loaded with life jackets, medical equipment and emergency supplies – to go to the rescue of the shipwrecked.

NB: a proven rescue technique avoids bringing large ships too close together to avoid causing a shipwreck with the swell caused (see also: Mare nostrum, Italian pride).

Once sheltered in the amphibious assault ship's hangar, transformed into a "reception facility for castaways" — with food, water, medical assistance, clean clothing and bedding available — the Bulwark set off to collect 368 more migrants picked up shortly before by the german frigate FGS Hessen and the Irish Navy corvette LÉ Eithne.

600 survivors by the Irish

The Irish patrol boat LÉ Eithne (P-31) successively carried out two rescue operations for its first irruption in the Mediterranean: 300 migrants, who were on board a barge, which was 45 km (approx. 28 miles) north of Libya, in the early hours of the morning. The day before, an alert had been given for 5 ships in distress - about 60 km from the Libyan coast (approx. 38 miles), the Irish The Eithne picked up 201 people in two ships, while the other rescue boats headed for the three remaining ships.

200 rescued by the Belgians

(Maj 30.5) The Godetia (A-960), a Belgian navy ship, which arrived in the area last Sunday (May 24) as part of Operation Triton coordinated by Frontex, took part in its first rescue operation, coming to the rescue of a drifting boat with at least 200 migrants on board, 195 according to the Belgian army, 250 according to Frontex, indicate our colleagues from the Belga agency.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde with information from the British, German and Irish navies)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).