German Navy should deploy ships outside the EU’s Triton operational zone to save migrants crossing the Mediterranean, as merchant ships are ill-equipped to perform rescue missions, Ralf Nagel, Chief Executive Officer of the German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) said in the lead-up to the German federal government’s refugee summit held today.
The 150-mile area between the coast of Libya and the boundaries of the Triton is where the biggest tragedies are occurring, and the German navy vessels should be deployed there, according to Nagel.
”Here our seafarers are often the first to encounter and rescue refugees in distress at sea. However, these crews are unable to provide adequate medical care on board to the sick and the injured, to highly pregnant women and to small children. Should a refugee boat capsize, the seafarers are unable to save everyone’s life, despite their best efforts. These are traumatic experiences for the crews,” said Nagel
”Rescuing people at sea ought to be the responsibility of navy and coast guard vessels as a rule. Together with the German Chancellor, we therefore demand that the boundaries within which maritime rescues are conducted by government forces be expanded beyond the Triton zone. Merchant vessels must be enabled to handover any refugees they have rescued to ships operated by EU authorities quickly. In emergencies, the ship crews need to be assisted by Navy medical teams brought in by helicopter.”
Last year merchant ships saved 40,000 people in the Mediterranean in 800 separate incidents. German merchant vessels alone have brought more than 5,300 refugees in distress on board in the first months of this year.
The rescue operations are very stressful for the ships’ crews, both physically and mentally, says VDR.
Despite the best preparations, merchant vessels and their crews are ill-equipped to carry out rescue missions and provide medical care to what may amount to several hundred refugees at a time.
The rescue missions in the Mediterranean have been carried out on a daily basis this year. Only this week more than 6,000 people were rescued in several operations while making the treacherous crossing from Libya to Europe.
The latest operation saw the UK Navy’s HMS Bulwark rescue over 110 migrants from a 30ft makeshift rubber dinghy in the middle of the Mediterranean.
So far in 2015, more than 35,000 asylum seekers and migrants have arrived by boat in southern Europe, and up to 1,600 have died while trying to reach Europe.
Image: the Royal Navy