The German refugee aid organisation Sea Watch claims to have saved more than 300 migrants in the Mediterranean this weekend alone. Sea Watch 3 vessel picked up a total of 317 people in four rescue operations who had been in trouble during the dangerous crossing of the coast from North Africa to Europe.
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 1200 migrants died in the Mediterranean last year. In Italy, for many – the gateway to the European Union, nearly 4,500 migrants arrived by boat this year.
The Sea-Watch 3 was built in 1973 and is run under the Dutch flag, as well as many of the other ships of non-profit organizations such as Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd. Unlike many other countries, the Netherlands does not apply a maximum size when registering vessels in the category of non-commercial pleasure yachts. This allows Sea Watch to be on mission with large ships of more than 50 meters and the organization does not have to pay out the volunteer crew.
The Sea Watch 3 was chained for seven months in a Spanish port north of Valencia. It was moored for repair work. Last week the ship had sailed to the coast of Libya.
The ship hit the news two years ago when captain Carola Rackete was arrested on Lampedusa after she anchored there with dozens of migrants on board. The Italian public prosecutor suspected her of complicity in illegal immigration and violation of the law of the sea.