British ship embarks on migrant rescue mission

A British warship sailing in the Mediterranean Sea launched a mission on June 7 to rescue over 500 migrants stranded at sea, the Ministry of Defense (MoD)  said in a statement. A Royal Navy helicopter has found four migrant vessels in need of assistance so far. It was also reported by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and the Italian coastguard that on June 6 over 2,000 migrants were rescued from five wooden boats in the Mediterranean, and there have been reports of seven or more similar boats still currently out at sea.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon on June 7 visited  the ship, the HMS Bulwark, and praised the Navy's efforts in the search and rescue operation, which he said has now rescued over 2,700 migrants. [The Bulwark rescued 747 people from boats off Libya's coast last week.] Fallon said, "HMS Bulwark continues to play a vital role saving lives at sea and I want to thank them for their unwavering efforts… However, we cannot simply deal with the symptoms of this problem; we must go after the root cause and the trafficking gangs behind it who are making money out of human misery."

Refuges from the conflicts in the Africa and the Middle East have generated a tremendous humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean with hundreds of deaths in recent months. In April top UN human rights officials and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) issued a joint statement calling on the EU to create a new rescue operation program for migrants attempting to traverse the Mediterranean and to commit to greater receipt of refugees. Also in April UN rights experts warned the EU that repression of irregular migration cannot be the only solution to the recurrent grave problem of masses of people drowning at sea. In February a Spanish court accused 16 civil guards of using excessive force against 15 African immigrants who drowned attempting to swim around a seawall between Ceuta and Morocco.

From Jurist, June 7. Used with permission.

Note: BBC News reports June 8 that the Bulwark has docked at Catania, where some 1,200 "resuced" migrants are being turned over to Italian authorities. No word was given on what their ultimate status will be. The report notes that more than 1,600 have drowned so far this year trying to make the Mediterranean crossing.

  1. 100,000 migrants cross Mediterranean in 2015

    The number of migrants arriving in Europe across the Mediterranean has passed 100,000 since the start of 2015, according to the International Organisation for Migration. More than 54,000, mostly Eritreans, have landed in Italy. Another 48,000, mostly Syrians, have landed in Greece. The figures represent a slight increase on 2014, and the IOM expects a surge in the months ahead. (BBC News)

  2. Mediterranean death toll keeps rising

    Hundreds of people are feared dead after two boats carrying about 500 migrants sank off Libya Aug. 27. A day earlier, about 50 people have been found dead in the hold of a boat carrying migrants intercepted off the coast of Libya, the Italian coastguard reported. The deaths were probably caused by asphyxiation. (BBC News, Aug. 28; BBC News, Aug. 26)