Volunteers set sail on Christmas day with the hope of helping refugees | Italy news

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Mazara del ValloItalyOn the port side of the rescue boat Alan Kurdi, a small Christmas tree shines with flashing green and red lights, a small way for the crew, which includes 12 volunteers from 10 different nationalities, to celebrate the holiday.

The ship, operated by the German charity Sea-Eye, docked in Sicily, but set sail early Wednesday.

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The purpose of the crew is to save lives in the search and rescue area off the Libyan coast, the deadliest migration route in the world.

Since 2014, more than 19,000 men, women and children have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.

Salvadore Perello, a lifeguard instructor from Valencia, Spain, is Offering his time as a volunteer during the holiday period. Along with general maintenance tasks, drive a rubber boat during rescue operations.

"I don't see refugees, I don't see illegal people, I only see people," Perello told Al Jazeera. "And when you meet them, you know they are like you, like my mother, like my daughter, like my friends and they are dying because Europe doesn't want to help them."

Salvador Perello drives a rubber boat during a rescue simulation in the port of Palermo (Sally Hayden / Al Jazeera)

In the summer, Perello volunteers on the Greek island of Lesbos, teaching refugee children and women to swim. Many have survived traumatic trips in rubber boats, and he says that lessons are a form of healing.

The 50-year-old man has given up all vacations since 2017 to help refugees.

"I am not rich enough to come anymore, it is impossible for me," he said.

Caterina Ciufegni, 35, of Tuscany, Italy, and the doctor aboard the ship, said: "I think it's a necessity. People are dying in the Mediterranean."

Alan Kurdi Rescue Ship

Catherina Ciufegni, a doctor and volunteer at Sea-Eye, photographed on Alan Kurdi's rescue boat (Sally Hayden / Al Jazeera)

Ciufegni said he moved from countries to his career.

"For me, it is not right that people who come from another part of this world do not have that option. I do not like (that) in this world there is so much inequality between people. We are exploiting Africa and Asia, other places, then we decide that these people can't choose another kind of life. I don't think it's right, "he said.

"As a doctor, I am worried. These people are weak, they are sick, there are pregnant women, there are babies … It's very cold. They are many people together, they have nothing to drink." "

In the kitchen, working as a chef, Hartmut Frank, 76, a retired professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology from Bayreuth, Germany, who was once a military paratrooper, He said his Christian faith motivated him to volunteer.

Alan Kurdi Rescue Ship

Hartmut Frank, retired professor, is the volunteer cook aboard the rescue ship Alan Kurdi (Sally Hayden / Al Jazeera)

"Today is a discussion about European values. Migrants do not destroy values. We destroy them ourselves," he said.

Jana Stallein, a 25-year-old film student from Dortmund, Germany, said: "I feel that if you have any skills that can help in this kind of situation, then you should definitely use it."

He was looking for a way to help and a friend, who went to Alan Kurdi last summer, recommended that he apply.

Volunteer as media coordinator for Sea-Eye, she said that most Europeans do not realize the magnitude of the crisis.

"It is really important to be open to everyone so they can see what is happening, and hear about the situation and realize that it is not far away, it is very close.

"When I told my family and my friends about (coming), everyone was worried, but everyone was worried about me. And I said you don't have to worry about me. I'll be in a boat. I'll be safe … You should be safe. being worried about people in the water. "

Alan Kurdi Rescue Ship

The rescue ship Alan Kurdi, operated by the German charity Sea-Eye, sails from the port of Palermo (Sally Hayden / Al Jazeera)