Sovereign Military Hospitaller
Order of St John of Jerusalem of
Rhodes and of Malta


Rescuing migrants in the Strait of Sicily: 80,000 hours worked during the first seven months of 2015


In the Sicilian Channel the rescues and tragedies are never-ending. Last week, the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps gave first aid to 250 migrants rescued during two separate operations of the Coastguards’ vessel Fiorillo. Sadly, the Order’s doctors were unable to save the lives of three women and a man, migrants of different nationalities who have not yet been identified. The man drowned not long before the rescue operations began, while the two women died from diesel fumes.

The latest tragedy occurred about a kilometre outside Zuwara, a port in western Libya from which numerous migrant boats leave for Italy. According to the British paper The Guardian, two hundred bodies were found by a Libyan coastguard vessel. The International Organization for Migration tells us that up to two thousand migrants have died during the first seven months of this year in the Mediterranean while trying to reach the coasts of Europe.

The medical teams of the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps have been aiding migrants on board the vessels of the Coastguard and Customs Officers’ patrol boats in the southern Mediterranean since 2008 and on board the vessels of the Italy Navy since 2014. From 1 January to 31 July of this year, 81,408 hours have been spent at sea with the dedication of those conscious of their duty to help their fellow creatures. 124 men and women have worked shifts in all weather conditions, facing miles and miles of sea day and night, to assist those who have faced a much more difficult journey. 29,889 migrants have been given first aid and taken to safety on Italian search and rescue vessels.

Mauro Casinghini, national manager of the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps (CISOM), is firmly convinced that the concept of “Fortress Europe” must be turned into a Europe of integration, a source of human wealth. “The presence of ships flying the flags of European countries gives us the hope that positions will change with regards to the migratory flows from Africa. But much more must be done to promote a real integration and the interventions to contain these flows. Too many deaths are continuing to populate the Mediterranean, now the largest common grave in our planet”.