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Marc Gasol part of Mediterranean rescue effort to save shipwrecked migrant woman fleeing Africa

Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, right, took part in an open-sea rescue of a migrant woman fleeing Africa with a Spanish activist group critical of European immigration policies. (Reuters)

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol was part of an Spanish activist rescue effort in the Mediterranean Sea that saved the life of a shipwrecked migrant woman fleeing Africa on Monday.

The group, Proactiva Open Arms, says that in addition to the one woman they rescued, they found dead bodies of another woman and a toddler in a shipwreck. The non-governmental organization accused a Libyan Coast Guard ship of destroying the group’s boat and abandoning them at sea around 80 nautical miles north of the country after they refused to board the ship going back to Libya.

Libyan Coast guard acknowledged intercepting migrant ship

Libyan Coast Guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim told reporters that the Coast Guard stopped a boat on Monday carrying 158 passengers, provided them humanitarian and medical aid and took them to a refugee camp in Khoms, a coastal city on the western side of Libya.

Ayoub Gassim rebuffed the criticism and blamed the tragedy on human traffickers and NGOs like POA.

“All disasters happening in the sea are caused by human traffickers who are only interested in profit and the presence of such irresponsible, non-governmental groups in the region,” Ayoub Gassim said in a statement.

Marc Gasol directly involved in migrant rescue

Gasol, who is seen in photos helping the woman on a stretcher while riding in a raft wrote about “frustration, anger and helplessness” over “vulnerable people” who “are abandoned to their deaths at sea” in a Tuesday Twitter post about the rescue.


The connection between Gasol — a Spanish-born basketball player who has played in the NBA since 2008 — and POA is unclear, but his belief in the POA cause appears evident.

Group Gasol worked with critical of Libya

Oscar Camps, a leader of POA who took part in the rescue effort, criticized the Libyan Coast Guard’s account of its interception of the migrant boat as omitting the details about leaving behind the two women and the toddler. 

“The Libyan Coast Guard announced that it had intercepted a boat with 158 people on board and provided medical and humanitarian assistance,” Camps said. “What they did not say was that they left two women and a child on board and sank the ship because they did not want to go on the Libyan patrol.”

Camps made his statement on a Twitter post that we are not publishing here due to disturbing images of dead bodies at sea. His tweet can be seen here.

Libya at center of migration crisis

Libya has served as a transit point for Africans fleeing civil war and poverty to migrate to Europe. Human rights activists have warned that migrants returned to Libya face the risk of beatings, abuse, rape and slavery.

Camps accuses a populist, nationalist regime in Italy led by new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of working with Libya to halt immigration from Africa and blamed that relationship for Monday’s deaths.

“This is the direct consequence of contracting armed militias to make the rest of Europe believe that Libya is a state, a government and a safe country,” Camps said on Twitter Tuesday. 

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