Between February and March 2017, a team from the Spanish NGO Open Arms rescued over 800 people in Mediterranean waters in a two-weeks operation.
On board the Golfo Azzurro ship, the rescue team scoured the waters of the SAR (search and rescue) zone off the coast of Libya, an area of 135,000 square miles of sea that migrants attempt to cross. They were leaving Libya on board precarious and overcrowded rubber or wooden boats, forced by groups of traffickers operating in the area.
All operations were carried out in international waters in front of the cities of Tripoli and Sabratha, and coordinated by the Italian Navy. Some of the rescued individuals were transferred to an Italian Coast Guard vessel, and the rest were transferred in two trips to the Italian ports of Lampedusa and Reggio-Calabria, covering more than 1,300 nautical miles and carrying out a dozen operations.
In most boats, survivors said they had lost victims who fell into the sea during the crossing hours before the rescue. There was no way of finding the bodies or obtaining images to record the deaths, which most probably were never included in official figures.
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