On leaving Cartagena in early September with Ibiza and Formenterra as our destination, we had a glimpse into the current refugee crisis in the Mediterrean Sea. During our night sail, the coast guard informed all on the water on VHF Channel 16 that they were attending to a dinghy full of refugees adrift near the Spanish coast, about 35 nautical miles (6+ hours) North of our position.
As the story progressed during the night, we understood that the Spanish coast guard flew over and dropped a functioning life raft in the water, as their boat was probably sinking. In boarding the life raft we understood that two people went in the water and boats in the vicinity were requested to remain vigilant. Cargo vessels provided updates as the night went on however it was never clear to us if those two people were found. Even with helicopters overhead and cargo vessels assisting, it was a stark and scary reminder of the plight of refugees and the tough job coast guards have in trying to help.
This experience motivated us to understand the scale of the crisis some more. The UNHRC (United Nations Refugee Agency) reports that year to date September 2019, 63,000+ people risked their lives to reach Europe by sea and 1,028 of these people are feared to be drowned.
For us, seeing how close the African coast is to Europe brought home the reality of this crisis and these people who are willing to risk their lives in hope of a better life in Europe.