Italy / Mediterranean Sea /
The green screen in helicopter control pannel tracks the first boat filled with people. More than 200 were rescued off this vessel.
UNHCR / A. D’Amato / June 2014
With Summer at its peak and the waves at their calmest, Italy’s Mare Nostrum Rescue at Sea operation has been inundated with arrivals of
asylum seekers, mostly journeying from the coast of Libya. At least 5000 were rescued at sea over the course of just 48 hours between June 28 – 29, 2014.
Given the large number of arrivals, all within hours, the Military Ship San Giorgio that normally acts as a collecting vessel for those already rescued, had to conduct direct rescues itself.
Photographer Alfredo D’Amato was on board and captured the rescue process from identification of boats by the Italian Air Force to the rescue of the four boatfuls of people and disembarkation at Taranto in Puglia. With a total of 1171 from four different rescued boats, the group comprised 820 men, 148 women and 174 accompanied and 29 unaccompanied minors. Over fifty percent of those rescued were Syrians, mostly families and large groups. The total number of families were 100, including some from Eritrea and Sudan. Pakistan (100 men), Bangladesh (70 men and 2 UASM), Gambia, Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, Benin, Ghana, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Tunisiao were the other nationalities that arrived. Three men from Libya, who were amongst those saved, were arrested under charges of trafficking/smuggling. Given the sharp increase in arrivals ver 2014, Italy has repeatedly asked for help from the EU and sharing the burden of the operation that costs Euros 8 Million per month. Since the operation started in October 2014, 73,686 people have been rescued while in distress at sea. Considered EU’s largest such mission to date, Italy’s decision to launch Mare Nostrum was a direct response to the more than 350 lives lost during twin shipwrecks off the coast of La