Beyond imagination. I don’t have other words to comment the day of Thursday the 14th of September 2017 on board of Aquarius, a day that will always be on my mind. 371 people were rescued on board in a few hours, fortunately with no drama connected to the journey by sea but with a lot of personal dramas that accompany migrants: they are men in majority, but also 54 unaccompanied minors, as many women, 19 children of 16 different nationalities, from Sub Saharan Africa for the greatest part but also from Syria, Morocco, Libya and Egypt.
Three rescues took place at sea on Thursday the 14th of September. One was different from another, and lived with contrasting emotions, with sudden changes that caused difficulties to the crew whose behaviour in the end turned out to be flawless: I have never seen so much harmony between people who, in half of the cases, up until five days ago (when the new mission of the ship of Sos Méditerranée started) didn’t even know each other. These people went together at sea with rescuing rubber dinghies to manage arrivals onboard of Aquarius, prepared together the places where people would have spent the night, would have gone to the toilet, would have recovered strengths after weeks if not months of deprivation elsewhere, besides the journey by boat.
The first rescue, directly wanted by Libyan authorities, present on the scene with a patrol vessel, lasted a couple of hours and was timely because the rubber dinghy was embarking water: 142 people arrived on the ship transported by two rescuing rubber dinghies (rhib 1 and rhib 2) and here they found welcome and a kit containing water, energetic food, a blanket, a T-shirt, and the trousers of a tracksuit. These people were censed and the most delicate cases were immediately visited, and it was verified that it was for the greatest part cases of exhaustion and dehydration.
On the bodies of many people the signs of violences committed towards them in Libya and during the rest of the migration journey were very visible.
In the second case, happened less than two hours after the first, Aquarius has rescued 120 people from a rubber dinghy in good conditions, and also us, journalists, had the chance to go directly on the rescuing scene, to live and document it. The third, however, was a transfer from the ship Vos Hestia of the Ngo Save the Children, which happened late in the evening, with 109 people who have added to those already present on the ship of Sos Méditerranée.
After the night, I spent the following day in gathering the stories of the people who survived, and I was able to see even in this case the laudable work of the staff of the two NGOs: in particular the work of the Sos Méditerranée was commendable in managing the situation on board and the work of the staff of Msf was laudable in observing situations of vulnerable people that were then reported on land to the ground crew at the time of disembarkation, that took place on Saturday morning in the port of Trapani, as indicated by the Mrcc, the Centre of central coordination of the coastal Guard.
Victims of physical, sexual violence, people kidnapped and sold, people who have lost brothers or children at sea: the stories are a descent to hell that finds comfort only in the stories of who has been less unlucky, that is people who managed to escape violence but who still had to pay one thousand dollars to leave. Many have been the moments of singing and dancing on board, moments of detente and amusement, so that a new beginning seems possible after what has been lived on land and at sea in the migratory journey.
A journey that the international community is not able to manage in a forward-looking way. As a matter of fact the international community only thinks about blocking the last part of the journey, without managing to set a plan of removal of the causes.