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Mediterranean Sea: New documentary follows search and rescue operations

04 Nov 2019

Human Cargo, an independent documentary produced by Evan Williams Productions, premieres on SBS Dateline at 9:30pm on Tuesday 5 November 2019.

The documentary follows the crew on board the Ocean Viking – a search and rescue vessel jointly operated by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in partnership with SOS MEDITERRANEE.

Over the last year, Europe has imposed tight restrictions on NGOs and their crews operating in the Mediterranean. But, for every 14 asylum seekers attempting to cross the Mediterranean, at least one perishes at sea.

“Politicians would have you believe that the deaths of hundreds of people at sea, and suffering of the thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya, are the acceptable price of attempts to control migration,” said Sam Turner, MSF Head of Mission for Search and Rescue and Libya. “The cold reality is that while they herald the end of the so-called European migration crisis, they are knowingly turning a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis these policies perpetuate in Libya and at sea. These deaths and suffering are preventable, and as long as it continues, we refuse to sit idle.”

The documentary follows the Ocean Viking’s attempt to save lives at sea and navigate the cruel crackdown on migrants by European governments. It features interviews with field workers on board including MSF’s lead doctor on board during the first rotation and the Humanitarian Affairs Officer.


More on the Ocean Viking

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) resumed life-saving search and rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean on 21 July 2019. The return to sea came after a sustained two-year campaign by European governments to stop virtually all humanitarian action at sea, and the normalisation of vindictive policies that have caused deaths at sea and suffering in conflict ridden Libya.

In partnership with SOS MEDITERRANEE, the new ship Ocean Viking operates in full compliance with international maritime law, and core humanitarian principles. The crews search for boats in distress or are alerted by relevant authorities if there are vessels in need of rescue. All rescues in the Mediterranean are done under the coordination of the recognised maritime rescue coordination centre. International law clearly states that a rescue at sea is not complete until all those on board are disembarked in the closest safe port.

Over the course of the last few months, the Ocean Viking has endured prolonged and unnecessary stand-offs at sea. It is unacceptable that vulnerable people are forced to not only endure the elements of being stranded in the open sea, but also the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen to them. MSF continues to urge European leaders to live up to their principles by allowing survivors to disembark to safety and to finally put in place a predictable and coordinated disembarkation mechanism.

MSF calls on European leaders to prioritise people’s lives and seriously commit to ending policy induced suffering and deaths. Rescue ships must not be delayed or hindered from their life-saving activities due to unnecessary drawn out stand-offs at sea.