When Europe turns a blind eye: Life and death in the Mediterranean


In the spring of 2021, FRANCE 24 went on board the Ocean Viking, the migrant rescue ship of the European NGO SOS Méditerranée. Off the coast of Libya, we filmed both successful rescue missions and others that ended in tragedy, while observing how the authorities interacted with the vessel's staff.


In the Mediterranean, the years go by and almost nothing changes. In 2021, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 955 people have already died trying to reach Europe by sea – twice as many as during the same period last year. NGOs believe these figures are no doubt an underestimate.

According to the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), coastal states have a legal obligation to organise and assist searches in the event of a distress signal. However, since 2016, civil society groups have been plugging the gap.

On April 21, the Ocean Viking began a race against time to try to rescue a dinghy in distress amid a storm, with nearly 130 people on board. But without assistance from the competent authorities, the vessel arrived too late at the scene of a fatal shipwreck. 

A few days later, 236 survivors, including 119 minors, were rescued from two other inflatable boats on which they were adrift, before being transported to a port on the European continent. Among them were men, women and children fleeing the hell for migrants that is Libya

In this documentary, FRANCE 24 brings you an in-depth look at the reality for migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean in search of a better life.

Ocean Viking: Life and death in the Mediterranean
Ocean Viking: Life and death in the Mediterranean © FRANCE 24

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