Search and rescue charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Moas) has assisted in the rescue of almost 700 people since its vessel Phoenix set sail on May 2.
Moas this year has partnered with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) which provides support to the mission and post-rescue medical care. The two NGOs combine to create the only private search and rescue service in the Mediterranean.
In a statement, Moas said itis feared that 2015 will be the deadliest year yet for those risking the Mediterranean crossing. So far this year an estimated 1,750 have drowned compared to 96 deaths during the same period last year.
Since May 2, Moas rescued three boats containing people fleeing from Africa and the Middle East and was asked to carry out the disembarkation of a fourth group of people rescued by another vessel.
It is this year conducting rescues in the Mediterranean Sea for six months during the peak of the crisis. Moas assisted 3,000 migrants last year when it was at sea for 60 days between August and October.
“This year Moas is seeing twice as many people rescued as last year,” co-founder Christopher Catrambone said.
“The most shocking part of this ongoing tragedy is the sheer number of children, including unaccompanied children, making this dangerous crossing. It’s harrowing to imagine what these children have witnessed since leaving their homes, sometimes all the way from Syria.
“We are very proud to be adding our professional crew and resources to the other rescue assets in the Mediterranean, most of which are commercial vessels having to face the brunt of the soaring numbers of boats in distress. Everyone is working around the clock and while commending them for their dedication we must stress that in order to save lives effectively the EU needs a dedicated search and rescue operation,” he added.
The latest rescue by MOAS saved 118 people from Syria, Somalia and sub-Saharan Africa: 80 men, 13 women and 25 minors, including nine children under five.
The operation was conducted in Force 5 swells and took almost two hours to complete.
It began when Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre Rome directed Moas to search for a small wooden boat in distress.
The migrants had been sent out to sea at 3am from the coast of Libya and were scared but generally in good shape.
The Italian Coast Guard then requested Moas to take on board an additional 101 persons and disembark all the migrants in Sicily.
These rescues took place just hours after the Phoenix disembarked another 473 people in Pozzallo. They migrants were rescued on two separate boats within 24 hours.
The 20-person team on the Phoenix includes a professional crew of drone operators, search and rescue professionals, medics and mariners.
The organisation said that it use of two high-speed Schiebel Camcopter® S-100 drones had already yielded excellent results. They have had nine hours of flight time in the past week and assisted during night-time rescues, ensuring that nobody is left behind.