Nor-Shipping is calling for a concerted international effort to boost search and rescue resources in the Mediterranean, before calmer weather leads to the now distressingly familiar surge in refugee crossings, and fatalities.
We need to act now
Nor-Shipping supports the Norwegian Society of Sea Rescue (RS/Redningselskapet) in its vital work in the region, and more needs to be done to avert a new chapter in this on-going humanitarian crisis. Last year was the deadliest on record in the Mediterranean, with more than 5,000 refugees drowning, suffocating or dying of hypothermia as they made their desperate bid for escape from African to European shores.
In the first two months of this year alone more than 440 people died attempting the crossing from Libya and, with the unreliability of records in this regard, that could be just the tip of the iceberg. As the weather improves, the people smugglers will accelerate the crossing schedule, using their increasingly flimsy vessels – mainly dinghies, which are cheap and hard for authorities to detect – to set the refugees on their perilous path.
We shouldn’t wait to see the headlines reporting one disaster after another in coming months before setting new initiatives in motion. We need to act now to create a response that is worthy of this crisis.
RS and the Hellenic Rescue Team
Nor-Shipping provides financial support to RS to help save lives in the Mediterranean. Initially Nor-Shipping had planned to donate funds to RS for a new rescue vessel for Norway, but switched the funding channel to support the organisation’s vital refugee projects when the scale of the situation became apparent.
RS works together with the Hellenic Rescue Team (HRT) in Greece, where it has donated two vessels – Norway I and Norway II – in conjunction with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A fifth of the money Nor-Shipping donates to RS is earmarked specifically for its work with HRT.
In addition, RS also operates the 23m long rescue vessel Peter Henry Von Koss. This ship, working together with supply vessel Siem Pilot, has rescued a total of 59,000 migrants and refugees since its deployment in 2015.
The work RS has undertaken in the Mediterranean is outstanding and we can think of no better cause to support as an organisation.
The main theme of Nor-Shipping 2017 is ‘catalyst for change’ and we hope to make a difference with regard to this heart-breaking situation. One way of doing that is through the financial support. However, we’ll also be using our programme of activities throughout Oslo and Lillestrøm to highlight the situation and encourage the industry to support rescue initiatives when possible, and to push for wider sustained international campaigns to help save lives.
This is not a problem that is going away. We need further awareness, investment and co-ordinated action. It is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.