The German refugee organization Sea Watch claims to have rescued more than 300 migrants in the Mediterranean this weekend. According to the organization, the Sea Watch 3 vessel recovered a total of 317 people in four rescue missions that had encountered problems during the dangerous crossing of the coast from North Africa to Europe.
More than 1,200 migrants died in the Mediterranean last year, according to the International Organization for Migration. In Italy, for many, the gateway to the European Union, nearly 4,500 migrants arrived by boat this year.
The Sea Watch 3 was built in 1973 and sailed under the Dutch flag for some time, as have many other ships from non-profit organizations such as Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd. Indeed, unlike many other countries, the Netherlands does not apply a maximum size when registering vessels in the category of non-commercial pleasure yachts. This allows Sea Watch to go on missions with large vessels over 50 meters and the organization does not have to pay the volunteer crew.
The Sea Watch 3 was chained for seven months in a Spanish port north of Valencia. It was for repair work. Last week the ship had sailed to the coast of Libya.
The ship arrived two years ago in the news when Captain Carola Rackete was arrested in Lampedusa after having anchored there with dozens of migrants on board. The Italian prosecution suspects her of complicity in illegal immigration and violations of maritime law.
Besides ships, Sea Watch also uses small planes to search for boats in the Mediterranean.