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Video: Unsafe Passage: on board a refugee rescue ship racing for Europe

Tension, bureaucracy and deep humanity define life aboard a refugee rescue ship

On the Mediterranean waters off the coast of Libya, boats overcrowded mostly with adult men from conflict zones dot the waters. The vast majority of these vessels are full of asylum seekers escaping Libya, where, during perilous attempts to reach Europe, they were swept up by the European Union-funded Libyan coastguard. On land, they were often robbed, beaten and at risk of being trafficked. This short documentary captures the inherent tensions, bureaucratic frustrations and fleeting moments of joy aboard a Doctors Without Borders ship operated by a crew dedicated to rescuing these refugees from Libyan boats and death at sea.

In particular, the film focuses on the tireless and sometimes thankless work of Salah Dasuki, a Syrian cultural mediator who was forced to make a similarly treacherous trip himself. Although there are flickers of hope amid the chaos on and off the ship, the Canadian director Ed Ou also makes it clear that, even upon docking in Europe, the asylum seekers face long odds of staying. Most will be sent back home, where many, still finding themselves in a desperate situation, will begin the journey all over again.

Director: Ed Ou

Producer: Will N Miller

Music: William Ryan Fritch, The Outlaw Ocean Music Project and Soundstripe

A film by The Outlaw Ocean Project, partially funded by the Pulitzer Centre for The Guardian

Text: Aeon

Website: The Outlaw Ocean Project

Running time: 26 minutes

Email subscribers may click on the title of this post to watch the video.

The E.U., led by Italy, has trained and equipped the Libyan Coast Guard to serve as a proxy maritime force, whose central purpose is to stop migrants from reaching European shores. Efficient and brutal, the at-sea capture and on-land internment of these migrants is what European Union officials hail as part of a successful partnership with Libya in their “humanitarian rescue” efforts across the Mediterranean. (photo and text: The Outlaw Ocean Project)

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