swimmer safety

Mediterranean Sea. Off the Libyan coast. 2016. Mediterranean Migration. Two men panic and struggle in the water during their rescue. Their rubber boat was in distress and deflating quickly on one side, tipping many migrants in the water. They were quickly reached by rescue swimmers and brought to safety. 

The central Mediterranean migration route, between the coasts of Libya and Italy, remains busy. According to reports by the UNHCR, 5,000 people died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2016. NGOs and charities such as Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) continue their efforts to patrol the patch of sea north of the Libyan coast, in the hope of rescuing refugees before the potential of drowning. The rescue team on board the MOAS’ Responder are there to mitigate loss of life at sea. Operating like a sea-born ambulance, they rush to assist and rescue refugee vessels in distress, provide medical assistance, and bring the refugees safely to Italy.

Spot News, Third Prize, Stories at the World Press Photo Contest.

Photograph: Mathieu Willcocks



Thirty minutes after setting off from Turkey, the motor on their boat, which was meant for six people but carrying 20, began to fail. Most of those on board it could not swim. With no other alternative, Mardini, Sarah and two strong swimmers jumped into the sea and swam for three hours in open water to stop their dinghy from capsizing, eventually reaching Lesbos.

“We were the only four who knew how to swim,” she said of the experience. “I had one hand with the rope attached to the boat as I moved my two legs and one arm. It was three and half hours in cold water. Your body is almost like … done. I don’t know if I can describe that.”