It was Sunday morning when she called me. The darkness was not yet over.
There were strong winds outside and it was raining. The table lying in the room of the house was scattered all around. Somewhere there was a phone, somewhere a laptop and somewhere a cup of coffee.
Jacinda and Carlos spent the entire night answering phone calls. And now morning the phone rang again.
On the other hand there was a person who was speaking in broken English. Jacinda says, “I don’t remember how his voice was but there was a strange kind of peace in his voice.”
Carlos answered that phone call. In response to Carlos’ hello, the person asked Carlos about his condition.
When Carlos asked for the reason for calling the person, he said, “I am talking to a boat. Istamos in Danger. (My boat is in danger.)”
He said, “We are stranded in the Mediterranean Sea. Please save our lives.”
After this the phone call was cut off but after a few seconds that person called us again. Jacinda and Carlos talked with the person. They wanted to know who those people are and what their name is. But he could never find out the name of that person.
Story of Maher and his nephew
Three nights before this incident, on the 6th of February, on the phone, he heard the voice of a man named Maher who was screaming “Give me my son, give me my Muslim.”
Maher was on the coast in the Mediterranean Sea near the coast of Libya in the city of Garabuli. He was talking about his nephew.
After spending two years with his nephew, he started treating him as his son. He was worried that his 18-year-old nephew would be able to withstand the journey of the sea.
Maher was shouting at a person standing near the place in the forest which the locals know as the field. Some people here illegally transport the migrants across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
Maher says that he wanted his nephew to go to Europe but he did not want to rush into it. He had talked to a dealer for this but he did not trust him.
He says, “Their boats were not strong and with the help of small engines, they had to cross the road of five hundred kilometers to the sea.”
He himself had once left Libya and was brought back and released here.
Maher requested a person to take the migrants to the other side of the field to get them to talk to Muzammil.
He told Muzammil on the phone not to go to Europe. But for the young Muzammil, going to Europe had become the goal of his life.
Maher says, “He could not sleep at night. All his friends had gone to Europe but he had not gone. This worry was eating him.”
Twice Muzammil tried to go to Europe but both times his boat was intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard.
The choice between a difficult life and a dangerous journey
Frontax, an EU agency tracking the border, monitors the movement of the Mediterranean Sea from the sky and informs the Libyan Coast Guard about the boats of the migrants.
Muzammil’s boat was also seen from one such aircraft after which his boat was stopped. He was brought back to Libya where he was kept in a detention center near the capital Tripoli.
These detention centers are considered a dangerous place among the migrants. It is said that where sexual violence and harassment happens. Muzammil was here for two months.
After reaching the coast for the second time, Muzammil somehow managed to escape but once again he started thinking about trying to go to Europe.
Maher states that Muzammil was originally from Sudan and that his family lived in Zamzam. After the battle in Darfur, he was sent to a refugee camp.
He wanted to become a doctor but his dream never came true. He had to leave school at the age of 15. He wanted to study abroad and open a hospital in his country.
Maher says that he felt that if he reached Britain before the age of 18, he would be able to complete his studies.
Ali Ibrahim of Sudan has lived in Libya for three years trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. They say there is no law in law.
Ali Ibrahim says that in this country, which has been facing a state of civil war for a long time, there is a constant fear of some kind of attack.
He says, “Everywhere, everyone has weapons in their hands. Those people take your clothes, shoes and everything.”
He used to work in a supermarket to pull a cart for people. They say that they used to get less money from men while women always paid.
Ali Ibrahim currently lives in France. In his second attempt, he was successful in reaching Malta.
‘The boat is flooded’
Here Carlos Istamos is constantly trying to talk to the person aboard the boat. He tells her “We are trying to talk to the Coast Guard. We are trying our best to save you.”
The man said, “The boat is flooded.”
Jacinda and Carlos work for a group called Alarm Phone which runs an emergency helpline to help migrants stranded in the sea.
He explains, “Whenever someone calls us, we find out his place and then inform the Coast Guard about it.”
This time, 91 men, five women and seven children were in the boat on which they were talking to. Often they have a little time from the boats from which they get a call, but this time the case was different.
The person on the boat told them, “Our boat is broken, we need immediate help. Save us.”
According to the information, this boat was off the coast of Libya in the international sea.
Jacinda said that she contacted the Libyan Coast Guard and the Libyan Rescue Center but could not be contacted. She says “We have also contacted the administration in Malta and Italy but we have not received any reply”.
Until 2014, with support from the European Union, the European Union and the Italian Coast Guard carried out extensive rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea region.
At that time, the search and rescue area of Libya was small and its Coast Guard also did not do such extensive work.
It became a major political issue when thousands of expatriates turned to Europe in 2018 and the European Union invested US $ 100 million in Libya to increase its capacity.
Trying to save the sinking boat
Jacinda and Carlos also made contact with the Sea Rescue Coordination Center in Rome. He said that he has information but he has no information about whether help is being sent or not.
Jacinda and Carlos once again spoke to the person on the boat and wanted to know if they could see any light anywhere. The person said that there is darkness around.
After some time, the tone of the person changed, he was shouting that people are drowning in water, many have already died. Jasinda was clearly heard screaming from behind.
With this, the phone line was cut. Jacinda and Carlos tried to call again but could not be contacted.
Right Now Times : Around eight o’clock in the morning, he spoke to Colonel Abdul Samad and he told that by talking to the Coast Guard, they would be able to send the search party to the sea.
After this, they got information that the search teams who were sent to search for the boat, but they could not find any name in the water.
The BBC also tried to talk to Colonel Abdul Samad but could not be reached.
Nobody knows where the boat went
There is no sign of the boat since the phone line was cut.
There is no evidence that the boat with which Jasinda and Carlos were called was also in the possession of Muzammil.
But Maher’s description of his nephew and the route and the time the phone calls from the boat all indicate that Muzammil may be on that boat.
Three boats were rescued that night – one by Malta officials, the other by an NGO named Aita Mari and the third by the Libyan Coast Guard.
But the information about the people aboard those boats, their GPS coordinate or location does not match the boat from which Jasinda and Carlos got a call. And it seems that Muzammil did not board any rescued boat.
The Sea Rescue Coordination Center told the BBC that according to international rules they share information with other rescue teams, which they did.
The International Migration Office says that the problem of migration has increased due to deteriorating security conditions in Libya. But due to the Corona epidemic, Malta and Italy have closed their ports and in such a situation it has become difficult for NGOs to go to the sea for relief and rescue teams.
Right Now Times : According to the International Migration Office, 258 people have been recorded in the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of this year, which is lower than last year.
Maher feels that his nephew was riding in the boat which was submerged, but he is not ready to believe that he is dead.
Maher says that when he does not get his body, how can we believe that he is dead.
They still want to go to Europe themselves. They are a little worried to hear of low relief and rescue boats in the Mediterranean Sea.
But he says, “When you go to the sea, you are between life and death.