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ICC Note: Amidst the global refugee crisis, the trek across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa represents one of the most perilous for migrants seeking to flee persecution, economic crisis, and war. Eritreans make up the third largest contingent within this flow, escaping a country that mandates indefinite military service and particularly persecutes Christians, subjecting them to torture and extrajudicial killings for their faith. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) considers Eritrea to be a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), reporting in 2015 that Christians are being locked up in metal shipping containers, are subjected to extreme temperature fluctuations, and face pressure to recant their faith. As a result, thousands of Christians flee Eritrea each month seeking greener pastures in Europe.

3/16/16 Eritrea (VICE News) – Desperate to escape conflict and poverty, thousands of migrants and refugees attempt the perilous journey to Europe each year, with many crossing the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa in rubber dinghies and wooden boats.

In the wake of the decommissioning of Mare Nostrum, a search and rescue operation run by Italy, the humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), launched their own vessel, named the Bourbon Argos, to find those stranded at sea and save those in trouble on one of the deadliest routes to Europe.

On board the vessel, refugees and migrants are provided with medical aid, food, and shelter, then brought safely to Italian shores. Having survived life in Libya, ruthless treatment by smugglers, and horrific conditions aboard flimsy boats, once aboard the Bourbon Argos they face yet more uncertainty as they approach Europe.

VICE News teamed up with MSF to document these search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean and speak to rescued refugees and migrants, hearing about the suffering they have endured in their attempts to reach a new life.

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