Inside a Daring Rescue Of Refugees Lost at Sea

 

Source: Time

BY ARYN BAKER|ABOARD THE MV AQUARIUS | PHOTOGRAPHS BY LYNSEY ADDARIO FOR TIME

Like most mothers, Victoria was willing to sacrifice everything for her children. Even if it meant risking their lives. Just before dawn on August 20, 2016, the 42-year-old Nigerian widow grabbed the hands of her seven-year-old son, Victor, and her five-year-old daughter Comfort, and stepped into an overcrowded rubber dinghy just off the coast of Sabratha, in western Libya. The children had never seen the ocean before, and they were terrified by the sheer number of strangers crushing them into the back of the boat, but Victoria had warned them what to expect, so neither one cried.

She told them that they might spend all day on the boat, but that eventually they would reach Italy. She told them that the crossing was dangerous. She said they could die. “I knew the journey would not be easy,” says the former kindergarten teacher. “I heard from others that a lot of people perish. I told my children, but I also told them that the only way to get a good education is to go to Europe. And they agreed.”

Refugees_Map_B

More than 106,000 migrants have attempted to make the perilous boat crossing to Europe from Libya to Italy this year. They are fleeing war, persecution and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, and are willing to risk everything for the dream of a better life in Europe. Unscrupulous Libyan smugglers, taking advantage of their desperation, charge anywhere from $750 to $3500 apiece for a place on a boat they say is headed to Italy. But in most cases the vessels are unseaworthy and overstuffed. The smugglers provide barely enough fuel to make it to international waters, and then abandon the boats, and their passengers, to their fate. If it were not for a multi-national rescue effort made up of international navies, humanitarian aid agencies, commercial vessels and various coast guards, most of those migrants would die. As it is, at least 2,726 have died this year already, more than the total for all of 2015.

Photographer Lynsey Addario and I spent a week with humanitarian organizations Médecins Sans Frontières and SOS Méditerranée on their Mediterranean search and rescue vessel, the MV Aquarius. We wanted to show how the vast rescue operation works, but we also wanted to better understand why so many people were willing to risk so much on such a dangerous journey.

Categories: refugees, The Muslim Times

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