Anne Kamel, the Caen doctor to help Mediterranean migrants

The atmosphere is all smiles this Friday, May 5 at Mojo, a collaborative workspace in Caen. The Calvados branch of the SOS Méditerranée ociation gathers around “its figurehead”, as its members say: doctor Anne Kamel. Since 2016, the one who has “done medicine for the humanitarian vocation” has participated in missions at sea. On the Aquarius Then the Ocean Viking, the boats of SOS Méditerranée. After a last “patrol” last January and February, from Italy off the coast of Libya, Anne Kamel returned to breathe in Normandy.

A relative break. “When I come back from my mission, I take a break for a week or two and contact local hospitals. It balances me to do both. The humanitarian doctor thus strengthens small centers such as Vimoutiers, Falaise, Bayeux and Coutances. With one constant: to be present with “those whom no one sees, even next to home”. An echo of its humanitarian action, as Emmanuelle and Annabelle, the referents of the antenna of SOS Mediterranean in Caen: “Anne is a witness to the reality of these crossings”. In the first quarter of 2023, the UN counted at least 441 dead migrants in these waters. An undervalued figure, by the institution’s own admission.

During her last patrol at the start of the year, Anne Kamel saw this disastrous toll increase. “We were alerted to rescue a boat with 95 people from West Africa and Ghana. Unfortunately, we learned that they had left Libya at the same time as another boat, which we have not found”. Among the migrants picked up, Sudanese “had lost their whole family” in the other boat. These experiences “inspire a lot of respect. She saw unimaginable things, according to Emmanuelle and Annabelle. She has this ability to stay the same, very professional.

When SOS Méditerranée launched its activities in 2015, Anne Kamel did not hesitate. It is the first mission of the Aquarius. “When you discover that for the first time, it’s hard,” she confides with a half-smile. It took me a while to get going.” Four years, to embark on the Viking Ocean. From 2020, Dominika Wanczyk is in charge of building the medical team for the humanitarian ociation. “People feel safe with Anne. They trust him. Even in difficult times, the team knows that they can count on their support”.

Despite emergencies, “she knows how to stay calm”

These moments await the crew and the castaways around the bend. During this 2020 mission, several rescues follow one another. “We spent twelve days waiting for an answer to be able to disembark in a safe port, testifies the doctor. It was extremely complicated to manage”. The different nationalities of the survivors make communication tricky. Food is scarce. Despite everything, the boat diverted to the South to set off again to save migrants. “Some thought we were taking them back to Libya. It was widespread panic, ”she recounts. Anne Kamel also remembers a shocking scene the following year: “We arrived too late when everyone was aware that a boat was in distress. 130 bodies were floating when we arrived. We promised ourselves to testify on these crossings ”.

Stories eagerly awaited by the Caen branch of SOS Méditerranée, created in 2018 by Céline Omnes, after contacting the humanitarian doctor: “Anne explained to us that it was important to count on mobilization on land. She gave us a lot of advice. The sharing of experience makes an impression but “she expresses what she experiences at sea knowing how to preserve her audience” notes the founder of the local branch.

A sincere concern for others hailed by Dominika Wanczyk: “whether for physical or psychological emergencies, she is never overwhelmed. And she knows how to stay calm. A commitment and decisive qualities for future missions made even more difficult by the tightening of legislation “when we have the impression that everyone should help us”. And while the crossings are still as numerous and perilous.

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