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Search and rescue vlog 9: "The whole world knows before us"

"It just goes to show the disrespect shown to these people and how dehumanised the situation is."

On 1 August 2018, Aquarius, a search and rescue ship operated by Médecins Sans Frontières and SOS MEDITERANEE, set sail for international waters off the coast of Libya to rescue people in distress at sea.

With few humanitarian ships in the region, and in the absence of dedicated search and rescue operations by European states, men, women and children are risking their lives to escape from violence and exploitation in Libya.

Irish nurse Aoife Ní Mhurchú is MSF’s Vulnerable Persons Focal Point on board the ship, tasked with identifying, documenting and referring people who are defined as vulnerable -  such as unaccompanied minors, victims of torture, survivors of sexual violence, disabled people, people with psychiatric illness, or people suspected of being trafficked.

Aoife recorded the crew’s work as Aquarius searched for boats in distress.

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"They never have to worry about being lost at sea again"

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"We are very happy that we have a port of safety."

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"It just goes to show the disrespect shown to these people and how dehumanised the situation is."

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"A rescue is only complete when people are disembarked in a port of safety." 

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"These people deserve to be disembarked in a port of safety."

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"The boat eventually ran out of fuel at the exact point between the Maltese and Italian waters. The likelihood of that happening is very, very slim, but that's exactly what happened."

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"Our main concerns were they had no lifejackets, no food, no water."

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"They look so young. I can’t image these boys and girls undertaking this journey by themselves. Travelling across the desert and being in detention in Libya before finally being pushed out on a boat."

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“It’s a very short time since we completed the last rescue until we started this rescue. It was just two hours.”

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“There were 25 people onboard including six women. We understand that they were pushed out by the smugglers at around 1am… they’ve been almost 34 hours at sea.”

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“She had very severe burns on both her left and right upper thigh... When we spoke to herself and her sister we learned that she had been assaulted.”

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"It will be very challenging, but I feel ready"

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'I spoke to these guys last week, they were terrified. They saw a lot of people die along the way. It’s a deadly route.' 

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‘Talking to people, understanding where they’ve come from, and the ordeal they’ve gone through, their stories are truly shocking.'

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‘I can’t tell you how it feels to be searching for 140 people in the middle of the sea… it’s been a real mix of emotions over the last few days… I’m exhausted.’

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'Working in these sorts of environments, you can't really fully prepare yourself."

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"We started pulling people out of the sea . . . There were 25 children under five, little children being pulled out of these dinghies."

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‘I can’t tell you how it feels to be searching for 140 people in the middle of the sea… it’s been a real mix of emotions over the last few days… I’m exhausted.’

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"If these people had not been rescued there’s no way the rubber boats, the fishing boats,  the over-crowded and wholly inappropriate boats they were put out to sea in could have made this journey. It's not acceptable at all."