S.A.R and Immigration flow in the South Central Mediterranean Sea

Associations, Clubs, Conferences, Seminars, Forums, Events, Immigration, Insight, Maritime Accidents, Maritime Fraud, Safety and Security, Salvage, Towage, Wreck Removals — By on February 12, 2016 at 11:15 AM
l to r: Commander Ian Millen, Rear Admiral Christiano Aliperta, and two student guests – Emma Buckels and Ainhoa Campas Velasco

l to r: Commander Ian Millen, Rear Admiral Christiano Aliperta, and two student guests – Emma Buckels and Ainhoa Campas Velasco

The Propeller Club’s first luncheon of 2016, held at The Naval Club, in Mayfair, proved to be a popular event with over 30 members and guests in attendance; Martine Frost from Jeanius Consulting writes:

The London Chapter Propeller Club President, Commander Ian Millen RN, was delighted to welcome all the guests and especially pleased to welcome back one of the visitors from the Christmas luncheon, Rear Admiral Christiano Aliperta (Italian Coastguard, Marine & Maritime Attaché at the Italian Embassy and the Italian IMO Representative) as the Guest Speaker.

From the drinks reception before the talk

From the drinks reception before the talk

Ian spoke proudly of the history of the Propeller Club, which was conceived in 1922 and, on 7th November 1927, The Propeller Club of the United States as a national and international organization was formed. Today, there are more than 80 ‘Chapters’ around the world, including two in the United Kingdom.

At the end of the meal, and after the customary toasts, Rear Admiral Aliperta was invited to speak about the work of the Italian Coastguard’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations, particularly in relation to mass migration in the Mediterranean Sea.

l to r: Martine Frost, Liz Watton and Anny Zade at The Naval Club's bar...

l to r: Martine Frost, Liz Watton and Anny Zade at The Naval Club’s bar…

Rear Admiral Aliperta noted that mass migration was not a new phenomenon:

  • 1900 – migration flow of Italians to Ellis Island, New York
  • 1979 – South China ‘Operation Boat People’
  • 1991 – Albanian migration flow

Today, the flow of migrants in the Mediterranean tends to come from six countries: Libya, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria.

He noted that search and rescue is only a part of this complex problem, and a holistic approach by the whole international community is required. Until there is a solution to the problems on land, the problems at sea won’t change or go away.

Admiral Aliperta delivering his well supported slide's speech

Admiral Aliperta delivering his well supported slide’s speech

However, mixed migration by sea is not only a border matter but, more importantly, a humanitarian issue; exacerbated by the unsafe and overcrowded craft, and unscrupulous criminals profiting from this activity.

Some of the statistics quoted by Rear Admiral Aliperta were mind-boggling:

  • 638, 612 people have been rescued at sea between 1991 and 2015
  • 152, 341 people were rescued at sea in 2015 alone!
  • 138 merchant vessels rescued 16, 158 migrants
  • The equivalent of 1, 000 people/day were rescued at sea
  • 4, 400 people were rescued in one day
  • It costs between $3, 000 – $6, 000 for a migrant to buy a ‘seat’
  • This ‘business’ is worth $34 billion to criminals
  • Proceeds from this illegal activity are only surpassed by drug trafficking
Mbers and guest during the pre-presentation lunch

Mbers and guest during the pre-presentation lunch

On the positive side, during 2015, the Italian Coastguard assisted in the arrest and prosecution of over 250 criminals involved in this people smuggling.

In response to a question about forecasting numbers for 2016/17, Rear Admiral Aliperta said this very hard to predict. As an example, he noted that there has been a shift in migration towards the Turkish coast, which should mean a drop in numbers rescued by the Italian coastguard; yet, only the week before, 1, 500 people had been rescued in one day.

Whatever the politics, Rear Admiral Aliperta emphasised that we cannot wait for short, medium or long term solutions; we have to react immediately to save lives at sea. It is unacceptable to lose people at sea in boats that aren’t fit for purpose and/or the number of people on-board. He stressed that “the task for now is to rescue all – not lose anyone. There is only a Plan A – rescue those at sea.”

On behalf of all those present, Ian thanked Rear Admiral Aliperta for the insight into this humanitarian issue. Like most people in the room, he found it hard to assimilate the scale of the problem. He reiterated that, once at sea, you can’t just turn people back and “no-one deserves to die at sea.” Ian noted the positive role the Merchant Navy plays in the rescue operations; and also found it heart-warming that, currently, the P&I Clubs do not penalise ships for running behind schedule from performing these rescues.

Ian concluded by saying that it was fantastic that the Italian nation have taken a leadership role in trying to manage this crisis; and thanked the Rear Admiral again for finding time in his busy schedule to speak about such a challenging matter.

We look forwarding to welcoming everyone to the next Propeller Club Luncheon, on Thursday 17th March at the Naval Club, Mayfair.

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