Joaquín, preacher of the 2017 Fair, is a volunteer of Proactiva Open Arms, an NGO that works to rescue the lost refugees in the Central Mediterranean.
Have you ever wondered what day-to-day life is like on a refugee rescue boat? Since the refugee crisis exploded in the media, we have been splashed with multiple news about it, but none of us can really imagine what they have to go through to survive. Joaquín Acedo, preacher of the 2017 Fair of Tomelloso, decided to enter this world to help as he could, he has focused his professional work on the world of emergencies, in which he has an intense career that has led him to participate in important missions. Although Joaquín is not the only tomellosero who is in the Mediterranean in rescue work, since the also tomellosero Manuel Lomas, returned to the beginning of March after spending fifteen days doing rescue work in the area.
To this day, Joaquin is on board the Open Arms, a rescue boat for refugees in the Central Mediterranean, a route defined by UNHCR as “the last step in the struggle for survival” of the rescued people. The newspaper ara.cattells how one day lives as a volunteer on this ship, specifically, on March 15:
06:00 AM – The boat receives a very common warning in its routine: from Rome, they warn that they have located a boat in the sea, in which 109 men and 8 women were found, one of them pregnant, to whom they have could rescue. Next, they receive another notice from the same station over two other vessels.
The rescue process is not so simple: they all have a limited space, so in many cases the boats are in situations of overload of people. To this should be added other types of problems, such as the following: the Libyan coastguard claim that they want to take the rescued people and threaten the volunteers. With the few communicative resources with which they count, they discuss with these coastguards to continue with their work.
07:00 AM- The Open Arms finds an inflatable boat with 117 people, 113 of them are men and a woman are pregnant. The rescued, who come from different countries (Mali, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire) explain that they had embarked the previous night from a beach near Tripoli. Finding this boat was not an easy task since it required two hours of constant search.
Finally, they are rescued and transported to the ship, but this type of rescue does not have a second truce, as they receive a new announcement without having yet finished rescuing them all.
08: 00-09: 00 AM – After one hour of searching, they find the next boat, with 25 women, 7 children and 68 men. Once again, the coastguards have threatened the volunteers with death to return the rescued, a negotiation that has been victorious but has cost three hours.
Once all the rescued ones are in the boat, it is necessary to negotiate with the corresponding country -in this case, with Italy-, so that they inform about the place of the landing. Meanwhile, the medical team is in charge, as it can, of helping the maximum possible people, a task that is also essential, taking into account that the physical conditions of those rescued are unfortunate.
Finally, the day ends and the Open Arms can be proud: they have managed to rescue 218 people. However, the work is not over, and there are still many people to rescue, so the cycle begins again:
The newspaper ara.cat explains: “It is six o’clock in the morning and the ‘Open Arms’ sails slowly north, although without an assigned port to disembark,” and thus begins the day.
Source: En Tomelloso