Sea Watch rescues 118 from distress at sea on Christmas Eve

118 rescued at sea in international waters off Libya, now en route to Marina di Carrara port in Italy, over 1,000 kilometres away

The civil rescue ship Sea-Watch 5 has rescued 118 people from distress at sea in its first deployment in two different rescue operations. Italy assigned the ship to the distant port of Marina di Carrara for landing.

The people are receiving first aid on board, with the youngest guest being just three years old.

In an initial rescue on the evening of December 24, 54 people were rescued from an overcrowded rubber dinghy in international waters off Libya.

Immediately afterward, the Sea-Watch 5 received a mayday call about another distress at sea, which the ship headed for on the instructions of the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center, MRCC Rome. The crew rescued 64 people in a second rescue and brought them safely on board.

The now 118 people, including 32 children and unaccompanied minors, are being cared for on the ship.

Many of those rescued are suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and chemical burns caused by oil-seawater mixtures that form in the boats.

Italian authorities assigned the ship to the port of Marina di Carrara, which is around 1,150km away. The Sea-Watch 5 is currently the only rescue ship in the area.

According to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 2,678 people have drowned while fleeing across the Mediterranean so far this year, the number of unreported cases is unknown.

“There is no silent night when people have to try to flee across the sea in search of safety. Over 2600 people were left to drown this year. Who wants to end the dying in the Mediterranean must establish safe escape routes”, says Anne Dekker, head of operations on board Sea-Watch 5.

“We are currently the only rescue ship in the area and are being sent to a port 1,150 kilometres away. The new EU migration pact is not an answer to the rescue crisis and thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean, but will only increase the suffering at the borders,” said Oliver Kulikowski, Sea-Watch spokesperson.