She’s on a mission to save lives. New Zealand woman Rosemarie North is currently on board the Responder vessel in the Mediterranean with Red Cross, shining a light on the refugee crisis gripping the region.

This year has become the deadliest on record for people trying to reach safety across the Sea. In the past 12 months, an average of 11 people have died every day attempting the crossing.

In one day of intense rescues, the Red Cross and its partner, Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), came to the aid of more than 350 people seeking refuge on unsafe boats between Libya and Italy. Rosemarie North says the rescue operations were intense.

“People started tumbling into the water, many unable to swim. The MOAS search-and-rescue team was able to bring nearly everyone to safety, but despite strenuous efforts, seven lives were tragically lost.”

A man aboard the Responder pulls a person from the water. Kenny Karpov/MOAS

Many ask why people would make such a dangerous journey. The fact is that many families are desperate to escape their homes and the violence that rages around them. Many face certain death if they stay. Others can languish in refugee camps for years on end. With many borders being closed in Europe, often the only choice people have is to attempt the Mediterranean crossing.

Rosemarie’s tweets from the ship show the rescued being comforted by the rescuers. “You’re safe now,” they say. But there’s some nervousness as water laps at their feet and wind whips their emergency blankets as they sleep.

As the weather eases the rescuers are offered biscuits and told they’ll make it to Italy. Elation and applause abounds as the coastline comes into view. With that, Rosemarie heads off for a well-deserved rest, comforted by the yellow lights of the Italian shore on the horizon.

How to help

We know many Kiwis want to help. Here are some practical ways you can make a real difference for people fleeing conflict and seeking a safer life:

  • Donate to Red Cross’ Mediterranean Refugee Crisis Appeal, with the guarantee that 100% of funds donated will go to the Red Cross response. Red Cross is there on the ground and our links with the international response mean that New Zealanders can directly support where the need is greatest.

  • Fundraise to help. Organise a bake sale, take part in a sporting challenge, or get your classmates/community group/colleagues together for a movie night – all for a good cause. Your support will help the people who need it most. Need some inspiration? Read about Will, who is running for refugees.