This autumn Save the Children rescued over 2600 refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean as they fled persecution, war and hunger looking for a better life.
As with any maritime operation the impact of the weather is a significant component and Save the Children turned to the Met Office and our Aberdeen-based marine specialists for daily, route-specific forecasts as well as 5-day forecasts. This information helped support the daily search and rescue operations as well as longer term planning for the charity.
Forecasts for both good and poor weather were equally important. Poor weather not only reduced the flow of migrants and refugees but also allowed the charity’s ship to return to port to refuel and re-stock before rejoining the international search and rescue mission when the weather improved.
One of the team leaders on board the rescue vessel, Roger Alonso, said; “Met Office forecasts not only helped direct our rescue operations but also helped ensure the safety of the crew. The information included not only wind direction and speed but also vital data about surface swell. I am looking forward to working with the Met Office again in the future.”
It’s thought that around 300,000 people have made the perilous Mediterranean crossing this year alone, many from Africa or the Middle East. Save the Children has now paused its rescue operations as poor winter weather conditions reduce the flow of migrants and refugees from the Libyan coast. Operations are expected to resume in the spring. Over the winter Save the Children will be assessing the operation to date and starting to plan for next spring.
The Met Office continues to work with humanitarian agencies around the globe. In addition to the work with the Save the Children we continue to provide support to the World Food Programme with work in Syria and last winter we worked in partnership with other meteorological services to support the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) in their operations during the South Eastern European refugee crisis. These examples demonstrate what can be achieved when our science, business and operational teams work in partnership with humanitarian agencies to deliver vital life saving services.