Last month we told you about the work that the RNLI has been doing to establish what realistic support we can offer to the communities and organisations that are co-ordinating the rescue of people from migrant boats in the Mediterranean. What next?
Last month we told you about the work that the RNLI has been doing to establish what realistic support we can offer to the communities and organisations that are co-ordinating the rescue of people from migrant boats in the Mediterranean.
The RNLI’s Trustees have since approved a plan to provide equipment and support to the Hellenic Rescue Team (HRT) a rescue organisation from Greece which provides a local volunteer lifeboat service in the narrow channels between Turkey and Greece, where over 744,652 men, women and children have made the crossing over the past 12 months and over 627 people have died. (International Organisation for migration)
HRT like the RNLI, is a non-governmental search and rescue organisation. It operates 31 branches throughout Greece and is served by a dedicated volunteer team of over 2,000 people. They are funded only by limited voluntary donations and they have limited training. Their equipment is unsuitable for the size of their task and the conditions that they’re operating in. They are struggling to cope with the demands of the current and unprecedented crisis in the Mediterranean and the worsening winter conditions, and there is a very real risk to their own lives every time they launch.
This month, the RNLI provided 40 sets of personal protective equipment to HRT, including drysuits, helmets and lifejackets. In January we will be giving a decomissioned RNLI Atlantic 75 lifeboat to HRT and a three-person team will go with it to train the local HRT volunteers. The team will then assess the need for additional training before we send a second Atlantic 75 in March 2016.
We are also considering what we can do after we have met their immediate training and equipment needs. We are therefore continuing to liaise with our European counterparts from Norway and Sweden who are already helping HRT, as well as working through the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF), to ensure there is a combined and co-ordinated approach to providing support where it is most needed.
If you would like to find out more about the challenges that HRT is facing, this recent film, taken while some of them were training in Norway in November, features interviews with several members of the organisation.
This initiative is being funded from the RNLI’s International budget and will not take funds away from our domestic lifesaving operations.
If you do happen to get asked any questions on this, please refer any media enquiries to the RNLI Press Office (01202 336789).