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Every day, dozens of boats roamed the China Sea. On these walnut shells, Vietnamese piled themselves from the hold up to the mast top, fleeing their country which became free but fallen into communism. The pirates attacked them to rape and plunder as well as to kill. People said that one boat out of two sank.

In June 1987, Bernard Kouchner with the Médecins du Monde chartered a boat, the Rose Schiaffino, to save boat people in the China Sea with the help of the Navy.

”For three weeks, I covered this operation. It’s a small flotilla of ships under the tricolor flag which tries to rescue these unfortunates drifting for days without water, without food, under this tropical sun that warms minds and stuns consciences.

I remember those faces which already became mortuary masks. I’ve rarely seen so much distress in a single gaze, so much pain and terror. There are men, women, young people, old people and many children. They are exhausted and hungry. However, they are worthy and almost proud. I’ve always believed, and sometimes these images still haunt me, that these people were coming back from hell, a journey from darkness to light.”

Thanks to this intervention, several hundred Vietnamese will be saved from the clutches of communists and pirates.

photographs by Nicolas JOSÉ

From 01/06/2019 to 30/09/2019
Impasse Jules Guesde

Phone : 0687223174