2,700 Migrants Rescued from the Mediterranean in Single Day

2700 Migrants
Rescue of migrants in Mediterranean by Sea Watch, 13 July 2015. Sea Watch/YouTube

2,700 migrants were rescued from 13 ships in the Mediterranean on Wednesday, in separate interceptions in the same area around 55km off the coast of Libya.

The rescues were carried out by boats from the Italian coast guard, German navy and several humanitarian and volunteer vessels.

The humanitarian ship MS Sea Watch, privately owned rescue vessel the Phoenix and two boats sponsored by Doctors Without Borders—the Bourbon Argus and the Dignity—assisted the authorities, which make up part of the EU's expanded search and rescue Operation Triton.

More than 150,000 migrants from Africa and the Middle East have reached Italy since January this year, fleeing poverty, human rights violations and war. Upward of 1,900 migrants have died while crossing the sea, according to the Organisation for Migration (IOM).

More than 4,800 migrants were rescued from the sea and taken to Italy over the weekend, the IOM said.

Sea Watch, a private German humanitarian organization, locates migrant ships and assists in unloading the passengers into larger, rigid life rafts if the original vessels are unsafe. The two doctors on board manage any medical concerns and Sea Watch contacts the coast guard and ships from Doctors Without Borders to collect the migrants and take them to land.

Yesterday the ship rescued a total of 587 migrants before returning to port having used all its life-rafts.

Ingo Werth, the skipper of Sea Watch's ship, says most of the migrant boats they encounter are 10m in length with wooden bottoms and inflated rubber sides. The ships are often found drifting while holding 3-5 times their capacity of passengers and are often at sea without a motor for long periods of time before ships like the Sea Watch vessel come to provide them with assistance.

Speaking to Newsweek, Werth bemoaned the lack of assistance, "There have been days we have been all by ourselves down there. There have been no boats from Operation Triton, there are no military boats from the UN. The coast guard doesn't go [out into the Mediterranean] to find people, they come to take them from our boat. We find [the migrants] and then the boats come to pick up the people."

"When I go back to Germany," he added, "we have to make a public statement so people know what happens here. It's important that we make this a public situation so that people see that it is very important to support a mission like [Sea-Watch] and ask for the political people to do their job. To send the boats [to the Mediterranean] and help the people, to find the people. The only thing they do now, they are just transporting the people from A to B, they don't rescue them, it's just a shuttle service."

The EU tripled funding to Operation Triton earlier this year after 750 people died when a migrant vessel sank in April. No one from Operation Triton or Frontex, the European border agency, was not immediately available to comment.