Migrants call Al Jazeera from boat in distress

We speak to a Somali who says he is on a migrant vessel in the Mediterranean with 100 others, awaiting rescue.

Rescue teams off Italian coast
The Italian government has upped rescue operations after a number of high profile incidents killed hundreds [AP]

On Tuesday, an Al Jazeera journalist received a phone call from a man who said he was stuck on a plastic boat in the Mediterranean.  

The man said that the boat was carrying about 100 people, was flooding with sea water and that those on board – men, women and children – needed to be rescued immediately.

Al Jazeera contacted the Italian coastguard and migrant activists to alert them. One activist sent an SOS. The man later told us that the coastguard had told him they were on their way.

At 21GMT, six and a half hours after we received the first phone call, the Italian coastguard told Al Jazeera that while they were not allowed to give information about what was going on with that specific rescue, the situation was “under control”.

Below is an edited transcript of a conversation with the man in which he describes a terrifying situation for those on board as they use a satellite phone to find help.

Al Jazeera: Is help now on the way?

Migrant: The Italian Coastguard have contacted me but they have still not come here, they said in at least 40 minutes we will get to you.

Al Jazeera: Where did you leave from? 

Migrant: We left from Tripoli three days ago and we are going to Italy.

Al Jazeera: What is the condition of the boat?

Migrant: The boat is not safe. It’s a plastic boat. 

Al Jazeera: Who are the people on board?

Migrant: We are Somali immigrants. We have a hundred people – fifty women and fifty men, they’re all sick and there’s water entering the boat. We don’t have supplies, we don’t have food, there are pregnant women on board. Two of the women have children, a two-month-old, and the youngest one is two weeks … They have been sick since Tripoli. I don’t know what to say.

Al Jazeera: What supplies do you have?

Migrant: We have only two plastic bags full of drinking water left and one kilo of food, there’s nothing else.

Al Jazeera: Do you know where you are at the moment?

I have a GPS and I think we are near Italy but I don’t know exactly … I only have the GPS location (coordinates).

Al Jazeera: Who is in charge of the boat?

Migrant: I’m not in charge of the boat. I am the only person who speaks English.

Al Jazeera: How are people on the boat feeling?

Migrant: They think they are dying, they don’t have any hope … for three days now they’ve been on a plastic boat. They don’t know where they are going and can’t go back where they left from. 

If you talk to the Italians, tell them to help us.

Follow Shafik Mandhai on Twitter: @ShafikFM

Source: Al Jazeera