Captain on a rescue ship in the Mediterranean

“Some people were lost before we could see them on the radar,” says Francesc Oliveras, who was captain on board when the Dignity I set out to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean. “Nevertheless, this part of their trip was actually the least dangerous one.”

The Dignity I is a 50-meter long ship built in Norway and later rebuilt in Spain, originally to be used for theatre performances – its owner had been in charge of the opening ceremony at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Recently the ship was used by Doctors Without Borders to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean, with Francesc as its captain. Only 50 kilometers away from Libya, the captain and his crew picked up 480 migrants and brought them to Sicily for safety.

Meditation on board

Francesc has been practicing Acem Meditation for six years and taken part in several international retreats, both in Norway and Spain. Meditation has become a natural part of his life.

“Even on board the Dignity I, I made sure to meditate 45 minutes every morning. Having time for myself helped me to calm my mind. My daily meditations made it easier to cope with the situation, in spite of all the noise and drama on board.”

Trauma in the desert

Some of the refugees had been on the run for a whole year before being picked up by Francesc and his crew. “For many, the last distance across the Mediterranean was actually the least dangerous part. Their long journey through the desert had been much more difficult. Many had had traumatic experiences: rape, being taken prisoner and having to provide payment to be released, getting infected with tuberculosis… Before being packed by the mafia in boats so overcrowded that it was difficult to breathe. It was heart-rending.”

Francesc Oliveras lives outside Barcelona and has a 17-year old daughter.