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Refugees and Asylum seekers die at sea

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    Refugees and Asylum seekers die at sea

    This is a shocking article about what is going on in European waters right now:
    Europe is worried about security and the welfare of their people to the detriment of thousands of desperate people trying escape war and poverty to find a safe place to live.
    Is the needs of pampered Europeans more worth than these peoples???

    #2 has pictures and stories from Norwegians involved in the rescue of Refugees/Asylum seekers in the Med today:

    Here is the pictures:

    And the stories:

    I think I mentioned somewhere on CVF earlier about my own experience with picking up Refugees from leaky boat in the South China Sea in 1978-80. These pictures bring back memories.

    At the peak of the exodus from Vietnam in May-Aug. 1979 I was Captain on the drillship Fredericksburg working near the boarder between Indonesian and Vietnamese EEZ in the South China Sea. During my 28 day period on board in June/July -79 we picked up over 2,100 Refugees from sinking boats, many of them deliberately holed as they approached the rig.
    We had no way of "escaping", since we were anchored and drilling, unlike other ships seen to give the refugee boats a wide birth.
    Indonesia had declared that they would not receive any more Refugees, but I had no other way of getting rid of them but to put them on Crew boats and send them in to the nearest Refugee camp, which was on the Anambas Islands.

    I was told to stop picking up any more by both the Oil Company we were working for and the Indonesian Authorities, but refused. When I left the ship at the end of my shift I fully expected to be fired and possibly be declared persona non-grata in Indonesia. That did not happen, however, instead the boss for the Oil Company in Indonesia thanked me as he had been able to blame that "stubborn Norwegian Captain on board that refused to listen when they told him to use water hoses to keep the boats away from the ship", like others were doing.
    I had told him that he was welcome on board to spray down women and children if he wanted to, but I would not order anybody to do so. I would also not let people drown alongside the ship but continue to follow the age old custom of seafarers to help people in distress and in danger of their life, even if caused deliberatly.

    In total during my 18 months on the Fredericksburg, working in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, we picked up over 4000 refugees. At first there would be something like 60-70 persons per boat and maybe one or two boats per shift, but in the worst period each boat held up to 250 and came in a steady stream. It was estimated that about 40,000 Refugees were at sea in the period from May-Aug. 1979.

    What can be done about it?? Not much at the moment. With Libya in turmoils and a steady stream of people fleeing from wars in Syria, Iraq and the Gaza strip there will be no end to it.
    Another stream is "economical refugees" from Sub-Saharan Africa. The problem must be solved at the source, not at sea.


      Not only in the Med and off Australia, but in the Caribbean as well:


        A more detailed account of the rescue operations carried out by the crew on AHTS Bourbon Orca in the Mediterranean lately:

        Their description of the operation and the emotions this bring is easily recognizable to me. (See post # 2 above)
        They also describe how being part of operations like this heighten their understanding and changes their world view. Living the good life in safe and prosperous Norway does not prepare one for such experiences.

        In my case I was a bit more prepared, as I worked in Bangladesh just after the independence war of 1971/72, during the period when thousands starved to death there.
        (1972 was the only year in recorded history that the population of Bangladesh did not grow)


          Two ships with refugees/asylum seekers heading for Italy in one week.
          Here is a report on tha last one, which at least offered some shelter for the "passengers" since she had been converted to a Cattle Carrier:

          This is not a new idea, since the same happened in the late 1970s with Vietnamese refugees on board old ships being abandoned in both Manila Bay, off Hong Kong and in Port Klang, Malaysia.
          One ship with about 800 pax. run aground in Indonesian waters of the South China Sea:


            This starts to look like the situation in the South China Sea in 1977-80:


              If rich Governments cannot, or will not, do anything, private charities take over:

              ​Iceland is there with a Coast Guard vessel, but where is Norway??

              The Norwegian politicians are too busy bickering over whether to accept that they have a responsibility towards children who have spent most, if not all, their life in Norway while waiting to be processed, only to be sent back to an uncertain future in a country they know little or nothing about.

              It is 75 years since Norway was attacked and Norwegians were fleeing across the North Sea in any type of boats available. Many died, but those who made it was welcomed by the people of Shetland and the UK. Maybe a thought to remember when people are drowning by the thousands in European waters.

              At the same time the Australian Government of the day are spending millions to turned around and sending "boat people", not to their home countries but in "secret" lifeboats to Indonesia, or detaining them "concentration camps" at Manus Island with no hope of getting anywhere, even if the are found to be genuine refugees, or have a right to temporary asylum under UN Human Rights charter.

              Why am I occupied with things that doesn't concern me, or the country I live in?? I refer to post #2 above.


              • nari
                nari commented
                Editing a comment
                Ombugge, one of the problems Australia faced was the fact that many of the refugees picked up from Indonesia were well fed, well dressed and clearly able to enter the country by normal means instead of paying money to go in a leaky boat.
                They were termed economic refugees and therefore were not true refugees, but just hoping to make a new life at no cost once they land. Sorting out the genuine refugees is impossible, hence the measures taken for some control.
                It is all very controversial and always will be.

              • ombugge
                ombugge commented
                Editing a comment
                Sorting out the genuine refugees and Asylum Seekers are what is supposed to happen at Manus and Nauru.
                But even if the are found to be genuine, they will not be allowed to enter Australia by the newest decree by the Abbott Government. Why?
                Because they are not on Australian soil, so technically they cannot ask for asylum in Australia.
                The screening process is nominally done by UNHRC, but even if they are given Refugee status Australia refuse to take them, although it was Australian vessels that brought them there. (Australian vessels are Australian territory, never mind if they the are in international or other countries territorial waters, or even in foreign port)
                The camps are run and paid for by Australia, not to mention that they used all kinds of pressure to force these countries to accept the arrangement.
                (Both countries are heavily dependent on Australian aid and was administered by Australia before independence)

                Yes Australia has a right to decide who can enter their territory, but they have an obligation to do so in accordance with the UN charters and International Maritime Law that they are signatory to and hold other countries accountable by.

                The same goes for other countries that find convenient loopholes in the laws and charters. Norway have had the embarrassment of having people they deported returned by Afghanistan and refused by Italy. They have been held in limbo for many years while the bureaucrats tied their best to find a reason to deport them.

                Norway has a lot of people who have been refused Asylum Seeker status, but they have not been, or cannot be sent. These people are living in limbo, without any rights. They cannot work, go to school or get medical treatment. It is a social bomb and a fertile breeding ground for radicalisme.

              • ombugge
                ombugge commented
                Editing a comment
                Looks like some Norwegian politicians starts to realize that Norway has to take some responsibility, or loose whatever reputation as a humane and caring nation they may have left:

              Just to put things in perspective:

              Yes there is boat somewhere under all the people.
              Who is steering this boat?? Probably a 15-16 year old kid that has been given the job against free ride to Europe. No need for any training, just go.
              Second question; from where are they steering this boat???
              Last edited by ombugge; April 12th, 2015, 09:22. Reason: Add text


                The next big exodus of refugees by boats are under way across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, from Yemen to Erithrea, Djibouti and Somalia.
                The contradiction is that many of those wanting to risk the crossing this time is Refugees FROM two of the same countries.
                Abt. 100,000 Somalis who made the crossing and was stuck in limbo in Yemen is now asking the Somali and Puntland to send ships to rescue them:

                This is even further from Europe so the chances that European countries will do anything to help here is non-existent.
                At the same time Kenya want UNHCR to close refugee camps there, which adds another few thousands of Somali Refugees with nowhere to go.


                • ombugge
                  ombugge commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I see on Maasmond Newsclippings that UNHCR are asking ships traversing the area to look out for and rescue refugees in difficulties.
                  If they do pick up some, where can they get rid of them?
                  If refused by neighbouring countries*, will European countries accept them if they are picked up by vessel under their flag?
                  *)After the Tampa incident and the Australian refusal to let them land, there is a precedence not to.

                It is nice to see that there are some well-informed (and probably well-paid) Media "Stars" that offer sound advise on how to solve the present refugee problem in the Med.:

                She is not alone; the idea that stopping rescue operations to "let them drown" as a deterrent against attempting the crossing has been made by some UK officials.
                Exactly how many should be allowed to die before they had to admit it didn't work? This is not a computer came, where you can restart and everybody come back to life.
                This last week or so there have been many more that arrived safely in Europe then those who drowned, so the odds are against that theory.

                Sometime it may be better to not attempt to "rescue" somebody that is on a boat that is able to make the crossing by itself, as the crush that occur in the rescue process can cause injuries and even deaths. Guiding them to a safe haven may be better as, although the boat is "seaworthy", there may be nobody on board who know anything about navigation, or seamanship.

                I have read some pretty stupid comments and suggestions in various media and forums; "Tow them back there were they come from"
                How? Most come from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Horn of Africa, with some from Syria and Gaza, not from Libya.
                In any case, if they were taken back to Libya, there is no support, only human traffickers to "take care of them".
                There is also no Government to ask permission from to land them in Libya. European nations are very conscious of sovereignty and territorial waters.

                Even if the European Governments were willing to set up and pay for camps and UNHR would process the refugees in Libya, who will guarantee security in a country in Civil War?
                We are talking about maybe 200,000 people presently in Libya, or on the way there, so it would need to be more than one camp to house them.
                The people who are now making big money from organizing the boats would not be happy with the arrangement, so it would take a major military force to do so.

                To take them to Europe and set up the camps there has been suggested. Those who are given Refugee status to be distributed between all European countries, incl. Norway as a non-EU member and UK as outside of the Scheveningen Zone. Non-refugees to be repatriated to their country of origin, unless some country are willing to take them.

                That could be done, if at least ports in Libya could be secured for large ferries to pick them up. But would the traffickers let them go, since they have control of most of them now?
                Even those who are not in trafficker's hands, w
                ho would be able to guarantee their safety from their hiding places, or detention camps, to the ports.

                It would be a good business for some old and obsolete ferries for years to come, since the stream of Refugees and Migrants to Libya will not diminish before the underlying problems are solved. Unrest and deject poverty is the root cause and the mitigating action required is to deal with that. Any suggestions how???

                It is not an easy solution to this problem, but it is not acceptable to let people die on your doorsteps either, so first priority must be to stop the dying.
                That rich European countries cannot afford to pay for the cost is rubbish. If Libanon, Jordan and Turkey is able to cope with millions of refugees from Syria, certainly Europe combined can manage to handle a couple of hundred thousand between them. But it requires a willingness to "sacrifice" a little of welfare and unwillingness see the number of people who died on their doorstep on the news every night.

                PS> That number will soon be overtaken by the numbers from the Gulf of Aden.


                There are a lot of Offshore vessels available in the North Sea at a very low charter rate at the moment.
                ​Some are Standby Vessels (ERRV) equipped for Search and Rescue, with capacity for 300 survivors and crew trained for the task.
                They could be on their way to Sicily within hours of receiving the order to go. That is if somebody is willing to foot the bill.


                • ombugge
                  ombugge commented
                  Editing a comment
                  The pressure on Norwegian Government to make a decision is increasing:

                  But their answer: Wait and see. Wait to see how many hundred more will die before they will do ANYTHING?
                  Norway and Norwegians like to say, "we are the riches country in the world". (Actually they are #4)

                  But to do something for people in distress takes endless discussions and evasive answers;
                  "Vi må se an behov, hva andre land stiller med og hvilke bidrag vi har tilgjengelig fra norsk side". (We have to look at what is needed, what other countries are bringing and what Norway has available)

                  The answer to that is clear; everything is needed, it doesn't matter what others do and Norway have plenty of resources in the form of idle OSVs, know how and trained personnel.

                A report from Catania actually made it to the first news item on TV in the UK yesterday evening, before reverting to the interminable coverage of our forthcoming General Election, May 7th. Here in Scotland election related leaflets were already popping through my letter box along with the Christmas cards. But it isn’t your thread on Scottish politics from last year that I'm reminded of, Ombugge, but rather that about Lee Kuan Yew. Right now we could do with such a Statesman.


                • ombugge
                  ombugge commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I agree, you could probably do with a Statesman like Lee Kuan Yew, as could a lot of countries, but I'm afraid the mould is broken.

                Yes, Cecilia, and it was headline news also on the Today radio programme this morning.
                Statesman? We don't have them any more. Just a pack of mealy-mouthed politicians.

                "To thine own self be true.......
                Thou canst not then be false to any man."


                • ombugge
                  ombugge commented
                  Editing a comment
                  On BBC World News it is and has been headline news for several days, even before the news of 7-800 people drowning in one go.
                  Now they have found a Tunisian "Captain" and a Syrian "Crew member" who can be blamed. I wonder whether this "Captain" was an actual seafarer or just an opportunistic Tunisian being offered a free "ticket", or may even having been forced to act as "captain" for the trip.

                  After all, it is not necessary to do the crossing at all, as long as they get outside Libyan territorial waters; "Just head that way and when you cannot see land anymore, just call the Italian Coast Guard on this number........" If you see any ship before that, head for it and wave your hands."

                  The culprits are not on board the boat as "Captain" or whatever else, they are sitting safely somewhere ashore, maybe not even in Libya, but in Italy, Dubai, or even London. Follow the money trail back from Libya and you will find the "back men" who finance this operation and reap the profit.

                  Am I an old cynic?? Yes, but I have some experience with how these things are done.

                • nari
                  nari commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Yes, the real culprits are those coaxing money out of the asylum-seekers who are looking for any way out of the country; it is a kind of blind faith which is handed down the generations - pay me a thousand and I will take you to -----.
                  And they are mostly safe on land, looking for more gullible and unhappy people for the next run.

                I thought that the idea of "burning the boats" was an idea of only one silly reporter, but now it appears that it is suggested as a possible EU policy.
                How are they going to do it, bombing anything that looks like it may float seen along the Libyan coast?? Maybe send in the Marines, but who's Marines?
                Yes fishing boats has been used, but how will they know which boats belong to the traffickers and not to honest fishermen??

                The result is going to be one of two;
                More of the inflatable rafts will be packed with people, equipped with a small outboard motor and enough fuel to get 50 miles off the coast at best, if they don't capsize before that.
                Larger vessels will be used, carrying maybe thousand people or more in locked cargo holds. They may start their journeys from other countries then Libya and may not have intention of landing at the nearest European shore. Where?? Your guess is as good as mine, but don't be surprised if they appear at your doorstep.

                The immediate problem must be solved by sending in suitable vessels to pick up those in distress, or guide them if the boat they are on is able to make it to safety.
                Norway is "planning to send a vessel by 1.Aug., if they can find suitable vessel". But that is to strengthen the European Border Control, not to patrol the area near Libya, where it is needed.
                There are a lot of suitable Offshore Vessels available at rates down to $5,000/day, with crew trained in search and rescue, in stead of sending expensive and unsuitable Naval or Coast Guard Vessels. Such vessels has been offered and could be available immediately if any Government, or private organization(s), would pay for it. With fuel and administration the coast would be at most $10-12,000/day, as opposed to several times that for a naval vessel with no space and facilities for large number of survivors.

                In Norway there are voices who say Norway should consider accepting 5-10,000 Syrian Refugees, or abt. 0.01-0.02% of the population.
                Out of the 5 mill. or so Syrian refugees presently in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, (more is internally displaced), that does not amount to much, but if other rich countries would take in similar number in proportion to their population it would start to make a difference.
                To put this in perspective; total EU population is abt. 500 Mill. If each of the 28 countries took in the eqv. of 0.01% of their population = 5 Mill. refugees
                (Total Refugee population in the world is estimated at 50 Mill., mostly in 3rd world countries)

                UK is considering accepting 143 refugees from Syria, but nobody can make a decision before the election is over and a new coalition has been formed.

                Yes there are many opportunist among the people now attempting the crossing, even from Bangladesh, but to use that as an argument to let people die as sea is downright cruel.
                The ones that doesn't meet UNHRC's criteria as Refugees or Asylum seekers (there is a difference) can be sent back to their country of origin. (Preferably not in a coffin)
                Asylum seekers can be sent back once the situation in their country stabilize, as it is a temporary status. From experience, a lot of Refugees also return to their home countries when they can safely do so.

                I have experienced the problem with Refugees both in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Angola and seen the suffering first hand. I was advised to "grow callouses on my heart", which I have to some extent. I wish those who spout hateful messages on forums, blogs and in comment columns in the media had at least been outside their comfort zone of Europe, North America and Australia etc. and seen the real world, not from the safety and comfort of a 5-star Resort, but from some of the slums in big cities, or the villages in the country side.
                No, not to take "selfies" to post on Facebook, but to learn what it is like to live like that, even in peace time.

                I don't advocate for everyone to visit war zones, or even Refugee Camps in countries close to a country in turmoils, but at least try to imagine what it is like to be uprooted from everything you know and leave everything you own behind, only to be hurdled into a tent camp with thousands of others in the same situation. And that is the lucky ones, some gets no help what so ever.


                • ombugge
                  ombugge commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Bourbon Offshore Norway is offering a suitable vessel and crew with experience from the area:
                  What excuse is the Norwegian Government going to make if they don't take up the offer??

                  PS> Looks like the Norwegian Government has been shamed int doing something. They may even bend the procurement rules to be able to charter a vessel quicker then "normal":
                  Why not tell Mr. Remoy to get going and we will fix the paperwork a.s.a.p. (Verbal contract)

                • ombugge
                  ombugge commented
                  Editing a comment
                  A young Norwegian seaman with experience from the area last year makes his opinion known:

                • ombugge
                  ombugge commented
                  Editing a comment
                  As said earlier there are no shortage of suitable vessels for search and rescue, incl. Norwegian owned vessel presently available in the area.
                  One vessel is idle on Malta and could be active immediately:

                Is there nobody here on CVF that has anything to say on this subject?? Thousands of people are at sea in unseaworthy vessels and hundreds are drowning just about daily, surely that deserve some comments, or even an opinion from those who are the neighbours to this catastrophic event?
                Elections are important, but people dying from lack of commitment is a h*ll of a lot more important in my opinion.
                The comments I have read in other forums are deplorable and bordering on downright racism. I was hoping for something better here, not deadly silence.


                • kiki42
                  kiki42 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Hi Ombugge, I have just read through all your posts, and compliment you on so much information and your feelings on this matter. It is such a big problem, where do you begin to tackle it.. In an interview on Tv , they were talking to a man who arranges the trips. He said he was making money , but doing the people a favour to get out of their country and a new life. He had no regrets and said he would continue as long as people wanted to go. If that is the attitude how on earth do you stop it. Do you stop the boats from leaving and people die anyway with all the conflict.? or do you pick everyone up from the sea as soon as they leave ? I have no idea myself what would work best. I will just keep looking at the news for updates on the situation .