Countless thousands are plying their way in precarious raft-like boats across the Mediterranean Sea, risking their lives to flee drought and war in North Africa in search of refuge in Europe. Doctors Without Borders launches regular search and rescue missions at sea, often finding emaciated and dehydrated refugees adrift on the open waters.

In an interview with Circle of Blue, Sebastian Ponsford, the group’s humanitarian affairs officer, shares insights into the complex systems that are triggering waves of human migration across the central Mediterranean.

Reporting intern Fraser Byers talked to Ponsford while aboard the M.V. Geo Barents as it entered search and rescue operations off the coast of North Africa.