Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is increasing search and rescue capacity to help migrants at risk in Mediterranean.

Every year, thousands of people fleeing violence, insecurity, and privation at home attempt a treacherous journey via North Africa and across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. And every year, countless lives are lost during the passage. In 2014 alone, more than 3,400 people are thought to have died during the crossing; already this year, more than 1,500 people have been left to drown.

Those who manage to survive the crossing are frequently detained in substandard conditions in Europe. Many European Union countries have closed their land borders, and transit and reception facilities are ill-equipped to deal with the high volume of arrivals who are sometimes even deprived of basic shelter inside host countries. 

And yet those who are detained could perversely be called the "lucky" ones. Through its first four months, 2015 is shaping up to be the deadliest year yet for people attempting the journey, particularly now that the Italian rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, has been canceled. "A mass grave is being created in the Mediterranean Sea, and European policies are responsible," said Loris De Filippi, president of MSF-Italy. "Faced with thousands of desperate people fleeing wars and crises, Europe has closed its borders, forcing people in search of protection to risk their lives and die at sea. There is no more time to think, these lives must be saved now."

In response to the urgent need for maritime search-and-rescue activities, MSF has partnered with the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) to provide assistance to people fleeing crises and risking their lives to reach safe haven in Europe. The operation will take place between May and October 2015, when the number of desperate people attempting to cross the Mediterranean is expected to peak. A joint MSF and MOAS team will be stationed in the central Mediterranean aboard the MY Phoenix, a 40-meter rescue ship. Equipped with high-speed, rigid-hull inflatable boats and surveillance cam-copters, and with a crew of 20, the ship will provide lifesaving support to those in distress. MSF medical personnel will provide lifesaving emergency care and treat conditions such as dehydration, fuel burns, severe sunburns, and hypothermia. They will also be equipped to deal with more complex emergencies, including obstetric emergencies, and able to provide resuscitation and basic life support.  

Along with the search-and-rescue mission, MSF continues to provide medical assistance to those arriving in Europe and to advocate for increased assistance to refugees and asylum seekers across the globe.