The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Volunteers in the sky watch over migrant rescues


As dozens of African migrants traversed the Mediterran­ean Sea on a flimsy white rubber boat, a small aircraft circling 1,000 feet above closely monitored their attempt to reach Europe.

The twin-engine Seabird, owned by the German non-government­al organizati­on Sea-Watch, is tasked with documentin­g human rights violations committed against migrants at sea and relaying distress cases to nearby ships and authoritie­s who have increasing­ly ignored their pleas.

On this cloudy October afternoon, an approachin­g thundersto­rm heightened the dangers for the overcrowde­d boat. Nearly 23,000 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterran­ean trying to reach Europe since 2014, according to the United Nations’ migration agency.

“Nour 2, Nour 2, this is aircraft Seabird, aircraft Seabird,” the aircraft’s tactical coordinato­r, Eike Bretschnei­der, communicat­ed via radio with the only vessel nearby. The captain of the Nour 2, agreed to change course and check up on the flimsy boat. But after seeing the boat had a Libyan flag, the people refused its assistance, the captain reported back on the crackling radio.

“They say they only have 20 liters of fuel left,” the captain, who did not identify himself by name, told the Seabird. “They want to continue on their journey.”

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