UNHCR thanks Italian navy for rescuing boat in distress packed with refugees from Libya

Briefing Notes, 11 November 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 11 November 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

After two days of sending out distress calls from a satellite phone in the Mediterranean Sea, 44 people, mostly sub-Saharans, were rescued by an Italian military vessel last night. UNHCR is grateful that the Italian navy took this initiative despite the fact that the boat was in Maltese search and rescue waters.

UNHCR was alerted that relatives of some of the passengers onboard the boat called from a satellite phone on Tuesday evening. A full 48 hours later, the boat was rescued in the middle of the night. The delay in rescuing the boat led to huge risks to the lives of the people on board the boat in distress. Risks included drowning, dehydration and exposure. A woman with a small baby was evacuated by helicopter to Sicily from Lampedusa.

This is the first boat originating from Libya that has arrived in Europe since August 17th.

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