The image of the bus departing from Pozzallo pier towards the Syracuse reception centre marks the end of the ordeal inflicted by the Maltese authorities and European governments on 27 shipwrecked people saved on 5 August by the merchant ship Maersk Etienne and abandoned in the middle of the sea for 40 days.
People, human beings, already victims of torture in the Libyan detention camps, fleeing from that hell where a civil war is also raging, a war by proxy where the great powers fight over the division of oil wells as if the country was a Risk! board, but where the corpses are real.
The Mare Jonio is moored at the quayside. The crew greets the new brothers and sisters they met in the middle of the sea, where everything is shared, even the horror of an illegal and inhuman frontier among the most dangerous in the world. We went to pick them up after the captain of the commercial ship that had rescued them had spent 28 days desperately asking for help without ever receiving a reply. The technique of rescue omissions, scientifically applied by two European countries such as Malta and Greece, is part of the strategy of “push-backs by proxy”, which centres around the role played by the so-called “Libyan Coast Guard”.
The current Italian government, continuing on the same line as the previous ones, is financing through a bilateral treaty signed in 2017 with the puppet government of Tripoli, and paying hundreds of millions of euros to train and equip a real “border police”, set up in a hurry by recycling known criminals and human traffickers well known to the public.
How many crimes have been committed against thousands of women, men and children and endorsed due to State Reasons? Today we can only look at the facts that happen in front of our eyes, and in front of which, on October 3, 2018, we decided to put ourselves on a ship and go where these things happen.
The Maersk Etienne is a merchant ship of a big Danish company. She sails back and forth across the sea that has been turned into a giant mass grave, as hundreds of other ships and boats of all kinds do every day. It is the first great paradox of frontiers: anything can go through it, all kinds of goods, but for a certain category of human beings, the sentence inflicted is death. These are frontiers that these brothers and sisters seem to have drawn on their skin from birth. Whether it is a police check-point in a district of Minneapolis, or an island in Greece turned into a prison, or the waters of the Central Mediterranean. These perpetually open borders become a wall in front of a family, a child, a pregnant woman or a 20-year-old boy. The colour of their skin often brings these migrants together, they come from the South of the world and go north. They also have something else in common: they are all poor.
The Mare Jonio of Mediterranea Saving Humans left the port of Licata on Thursday afternoon at 2.40 pm for its ninth mission in the Libyan SAR area, in international waters in the central Mediterranean Sea. Monitoring missions during which we have never failed to rescue shipwrecked people, to respond to requests for help, to reports of boats and people in danger. As dictated by international conventions and maritime law although these norms seem to be only respected on paper, judging by the behaviour of national and European authorities.
“To help is an obligation”, claim charters undersigned by various governments. Rules written in the Italian Constitution.
Unfortunately we know that this is not the case. The opposite is the case.
On the evening of Thursday 10th September, after sailing south for 40 miles, an e-mail arrived on the bridge of the Mare Jonio, sent directly by the captain of the ship Maersk Etienne, which had been off Malta for 37 days. He asked the Mare Jonio for help: the situation on board had worsened, in particular that of a pregnant woman who needed medical attention. The Etienne has been in this condition since she rescued a sinking boat on 5th August. Aboard 27 exhausted people, plucked from the sea just before sinking. The Etienne, as her captain says, could not leave them to die. But the “punishment” for those who help and save lives is very hard: abandonment. Malta, responsible for that stretch of sea, refused to grant a Place of Safety (POS). Italy, the nearest coastal state, leaves the responsibility to Malta. The ship is registered in Denmark, and the Danish government tried to organise the deportation of the shipwrecked people to Tunisia (an unsafe country). The European institutions, despite the appeal to Brussels by dozens of parliamentarians, do not intervene. The ordeal of the Etienne becomes one of Europe’s most shameful episodes, along with the financing of the concentration camps in Libya and the burning Moria camp in Greece, with its 13,000 innocent prisoners inside.
The Mare Jonio does what needs to be done: once it heard the call for help, it changed its course and headed for the position. In the early hours of the morning on Friday 11th September, the ABBA1 rescue boat leaves the Mare Jonio to reach the Etienne, bringing our medical staff to the merchant ship. In 37 days no one had even deigned to send a doctor.
The report from the medical team leaves no doubt: the psycho-physical conditions of the 27 shipwrecked people is very dramatic and the medical condition of the pregnant woman aboard is very serious. The situation cannot be sustained a minute longer. The commander of the Etienne formally requests the Mare Jonio command to authorise the transfer on our ship, which has a medical team and an infirmary equipped to provide first aid. Instructions are requested from Malta, but no response is received. The transfer takes place while the sea is rising: getting off an oil tanker with the bulkheads tens of metres high through a rope ladder is not an easy or safe operation, and it must be done quickly.
The transfer operation was completed at around 5 p.m., while the Maltese and Italian authorities have been kept constantly updated on the situation. Malta replies only to say that it has no intention of dealing with the case and that it will not grant any port to the shipwrecked people. “Turn to Italy” is their contemptuous reply.
The MRCC of Rome initially wrote to Mare Jonio advising that Malta was responsible, but after 24 hours waiting on the government’s instructions, it finally assigned Pozzallo as the port of disembarkation. The pregnant woman aboard and her husband had been evacuated from the Mare Jonio on Friday evening for hospitalisation. The others are welcomed on the pier of Pozzallo on Saturday 12th September at 9.00 p.m..
This brings to an end the 40-day odyssey. The Mare Jonio did what needed to be done, the right thing to do. Above all, the dignity of 27 people was restored. 27 people who had been rejected, treated like unwanted goods, abandoned first in Libya and then at sea.
But there are other meanings behind the facts.
What is the meaning of this behaviour of national and European authorities towards the Maersk Etienne? The message, given through what we consider a shameful behaviour and a blatant violation of the law, was clear: if commercial ships and fishing boats try to help, they will be blocked in the middle of the sea, abandoned there to lose a lot of time and money and go through a lot of trouble. Don’t try to help, you have to let them die. This is the attempt to make the omission of help into routine, to turn it into practice and then into norm. As if we could put it on the same level as the right to asylum, as the Geneva Convention and its Article 33 which prohibits refoulement. Maersk Etienne was a weapon in the hands of those who, from the top of their national and European sovereignty, want to change laws, conventions, treaties through a consolidated criminal practice. Their plan is to impose laws against life, against humanity, against the poor. They think that then everyone will be forced to obey these laws and will have to return to the ranks. But obedience is no longer a virtue, said Don Milani.
A different Europe travels on the ships of the Civil Fleet. A different world travels on that bus.
Good luck, brothers and sisters
By Sandro Mezzadra, on il manifesto 13/09/2020
The media and the political system tend to treat what happens in the Mediterranean, and more generally the migration issue, as a specific and distinct topic. It is usually classified as an emergency (whether it be a security issue or as a humanitarian one, it doesn’t really change with respect to the logic of the argument). Nobody thinks, for example, to connect this matter to the “recovery fund”- a topic that is discussed in a completely different language and tone. In my opinion, however, this attitude is profoundly misleading. If the “recovery fund” marks a breakthrough in the process of European integration (the ramifications of which are still being explored, of course), essential games are being played in the Mediterranean for the definition of the borders of a Europe that is intended to be upgraded – and therefore both for the quality of its citizenship and for its relations with the outside world, first of all with the countries on the southern shore, with the great Middle East and with Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole.
The shame of the Moria camp and of the detention camps in Libya are the most visible peaks of a maritime border control regime that is to all intents and purposes a European one (let it be clear, this does not absolve them of their responsibilities: individual, national governments, starting with the Italian one). What happened to the tanker Etienne, owned by the Danish giant Maersk, is another emblematic piece of the intertwining of national and European responsibilities in a sea that has long since been traveled as the world’s deadliest border. Indifference, cynicism, disregard for the basic duty to save lives at sea, bodies left decomposing for weeks, without any assistance: is this the Europe that intends to re-qualify itself by means of the “recovery fund” after the shock of the pandemic? It would seem so- all the more if we bear in mind that those who are acting in the Mediterranean today are not the “sovereignists”, but governments like the Italian one and Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission.
From this point of view, the operation carried out on Friday by Mare Jonio, the ship of the platform Mediterranea, acquires a particularly important meaning. The Mediterranea volunteers simply did what the Maltese and European authorities should have done: they got on board, provided initial medical assistance to the twenty-seven refugees and migrants rescued by the Danish ship and immediately noticed an unsustainable situation. Hence the decision to transfer the twenty-seven to the Mare Jonio. But, it cannot be ignored, more generally, that Mediterranea’s intervention has modeled a different way of managing the maritime border in the Mediterranean, opening a “humanitarian corridor” from below and powerfully alluding to the construction of another Europe through activism at sea and on the borders.
This kind of activism has been consolidating in the last months and at the same time it has been at least partially transformed. The construction of a real “civil fleet”, with Alarm Phone as its rescue coordination centre (towards the construction of a real “civil MRCC”), has led to a deepening of the immediately European dimension of operations at sea, while in Germany in particular – as Sebastiano Canetta wrote here on Friday – a movement that accompanies those operations on land has been growing, with the involvement of deeply heterogeneous actors (from Churches to Municipalities such as Berlin and some Länder). What is at stake today is more and more clearly, for activism at sea, the struggle for a Europe other than the shame of Moria, Libya and Etienne, beginning with a new way of narrating migrations and linking them to the social mobilizations that are taking place in the context of the pandemic. Also because of the great impression created by the Black Lives Matter’s initiatives in the USA, which are also changing the grammar of antiracism in Europe, the traditional languages of humanitarianism are being displaced or in any case largely changed. The recognition of the centrality of refugees and migrants and of their struggles, even in very harsh conditions such as the crossing of the maritime border in the Mediterranean Sea, is in particular increasingly a feature of activism at sea.
The high level of cooperation between different actors within the ” civil fleet ” is an extraordinary example of action on the immediate European scene that other movements could resume and develop. The resonance between activism in the Mediterranean and the mobilizations in the United States is another aspect that would certainly be worth exploring. More generally, activism at sea today offers us, in partially new terms, the relevance of a radical border and migration policy without which it is very difficult to resume reflection and initiative on the European issue. Mediterranea, with the operation on Friday, gave a good example of this radical policy, starting from the elementary need to help twenty-seven refugees and migrants abandoned by Europe.
We are leaving Augusta for a mission to rescue the civilian patrol boat Louise Michel, which declared a state of emergency at 3:24 am tonight.
We decided to intervene, anticipating the scheduled start of our Mission 09 by 48 h, because at the moment neither the Maltese nor the Italian authorities are providing the necessary assistance to over 150 people in imminent life danger.
It will be a long journey and we hope that the military units of the Italian Coast Guard or the Maltese ones decide to intervene first.
The Louise Michel already has 165 castaways aboard; more than ten people still at sea would in fact be easily reachable with fast boats: in less than 2 h from Lampedusa and in less than 3 h from Valletta.
Since last night Louise Michel has been assisting a rubber dinghy with 130 people aboard.
The situation is dramatic, 1 person on board died and the crew can’t guarantee assistance to everyone. There are many women and children, a lot of people have serious medical problems due to gasoline burns and many hours at sea.
Rescuing these people is a matter of life and death.
And once again the European civil society, starting with the Mediterranean and the Ionian Sea, will do its part.
We sailed two days ahead of schedule, in order to respond to the S.O.S. call from Louise Michel, the new fast patrol vessel of the European civilian fleet. The Louise Michel first rescued 89 people, then 198 more, and was suffering the consequences of the delays and of the omissions of the competent authorities for the safety of life at sea.
After our sailing announcement, and after the arrival of the Sea-Watch 4 – which was already carrying over 200 people on board, and who had been waiting for days for a safe port to disembark in, the ball got rolling: an Italian Coast Guard patrol boat set sail in the afternoon from Lampedusa, and trans-shipped 49 people, among them children, women and other vulnerable people.
This intervention is still insufficient: the Maltese authorities keep on failing to fulfill their duties, while more than 350 people, currently on board the Louise Michel and the Sea-Watch-4, need to be disembarked as soon as possible, in complete safety, in a European port.
A heavy storm is approaching, there will be severe sea conditions in the upcoming days. We ask the governments of Malta and Italy to carry out their duty: rescue these people, and let them disembark.
The Mare Jonio will certainly play its role, on the side of humanity. That’s why we are back at sea.
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Report on solidarity practices and breaking the liquid border regime in the Mediterranean.
The practices of cooperation and active solidarity that a multiplicity of actors, including Mediterranea Saving Humans, has been able to put in place during the weekend between the evening of Saturday 25th and the morning of Monday 27th July, describe a situation of permanent and repeated violation of people’s fundamental human rights in the Central Mediterranean, but at the same time they also indicate how it is possible to fight them with some effectiveness.
The crucial information is: in two different cases, 95 and 45 people respectively, women, children, men, whose fates could have been forever scarred by dying either by starvation or by drowning, or by being forced to return to the Libyan hell, were instead saved and were able to land and disembark in a “safe port”. The second group was actually rescued on Sunday evening by a patrol boat of the Guardia di Finanza less than 6 miles from the Italian SAR zone south of Lampedusa.
How did it happen?
It all began last Saturday at 11:55 p.m., when Alarm Phone, a hotline that is active 24/7 thanks to an extraordinary network of African and European activists on both shores of our sea, announces publicly that it notified both Maltese and Italian maritime authorities that a wooden boat carrying 95 people, whom we’ll later learn were all Eritrean, was located at coordinates 34°24’N 012°04’E in the Maltese search and rescue area (SAR area), but it was also very close to the boundaries of the Tunisian and Libyan SAR zones.
At 2:45 a.m. on Sunday, the people on board contact Alarm Phone (AP) again. The boat is overcrowded. They are not able to empty the boat of incoming water. “Help. We are dying,” they scream into the satellite phone. The ship Maridive 230 is approximately 20 nautical miles from the boat’s location and could be given the order to rescue them, but the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in La Valletta (MRCC Malta) does not respond to AP’s calls. At 3:45 a.m., the people stranded on the boat inform AP that they have received a call from a Maltese phone number. The voice on the call told them, “We are coming to get you.” At 8:36 a.m., the people on the boat continue to indicate their position, but no one intervenes. There is a ship within sight, but it does not come near them. Water continues to enter the boat, they say desperately, adding that two people have dived into the water, and one of them has disappeared amongst the waves.
In the meantime, however, many people on land are sounding the alarm: the communities of the Eritrean diaspora in both Africa and Europe; Giulia Tranchina, a lawyer who is personally in contact with them; Sara Creta, a journalist threatened by Libyan gangs and on equal footing as Nello Scavo from L’Avvenire for her commitment in denouncing the horrors of the detention camps in Libya. Furthermore, it seems that most of the people shipwrecked come from the infamous Tajoura detention center.
From the very beginning, the members of the “Civil Fleet”, Mediterranea Saving Humans and Sea-Watch’s Airborne Team’s planes, Moonbird and Seabird, monitoring this area of the sea, start collaborating with AP, in what could be seen as a budding “Civil MRCC”.
Contacts within the Catholic Church, civil society and independent media in Malta are mobilized. The authorities in La Valletta cannot be allowed to grievously violate international law once again. Their intentions are immediately clear: just as they did many times in previous months, they are waiting for the “so called” Libyan Coast Guard’s motorboats to intercept their “targets”. They want another “push-back;” they want the deportation of these peaceful refugees who are protected under international law. They want to bring them back to Libya, the place from which they are escaping. This cannot and must not end this way.
The pressure on the government of Malta grows exponentially. The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mobilized, via their offices in Italy and Malta first, and then their HQ in Geneva as well. Communication plays a decisive role. The recording of the satellite phone call received by AP containing the desperate request for help received from the wooden boat is broadcast around the world. No one can ever claim they did not know of the crime that was about to take place in front of everyone’s eyes.
By 6:15 p.m., the shipwrecked people have been without drinking water for hours and are at the limits of exhaustion. They report that another commercial ship was nearby, but it left without offering assistance. We study the maps in order to understand what vessel was in the area: less than ten nautical miles away there is an oil tanker flying the Maltese flag sailing toward an Italian port. We contact the oil company. They demonstrate great sensitivity to the situation and speak to the ship owner: there is an obligation to rescue people at sea, and those who fail to do so commit a crime punishable by law.
Before midnight, the ship has changed its course and approaches the boat carrying 95 people, giving out life jackets, drinking water and food. The ship stays next to the boat while it awaits instructions from RCC Malta. “Monitor the situation,” says the Maltese Armed Forces. “We are on our way”. Actually, it will be another six hours before anything happens. What they were actually trying to do until the very last moment was deliver the refugees into the hands of their Libyan torturers. Ultimately, a little after 6 a.m. on Monday, a Maltese patrol boat arrived on the scene and rescued the occupants of the wooden boat.
By the afternoon, they disembarked at La Valetta. They are finally in a “safe port” in Europe. They will have the possibility to build a different future for themselves- far from the persecutions they endured in their homeland, far from the dangers of their long voyage and far from the horrors they suffered in Libya.
Why was there so much unnecessary suffering caused by leaving them at sea for forty-eight hours? Why did European governments and authorities fail to provide assistance so many times? Why is there a “double system” with rapid intercept and capture operated by the Libyan patrol boats on one side and silence and neglect in the Maltese SAR area on the other?
Why is there such determination in defending an invisible, yet deadly, fluid border?
Why use European funds and collaboration to try and transform the Libyan militia into a contracted border police force? Why are the SAR areas in international waters treated as if they are within sovereign state territory? How is this possible when these areas fall under the current SAR Convention of Hamburg 1979 that clearly states there is a shared responsibility between the authorities from adjoining states, such as Italy?
As seen with the two cases above, these questions were answered by a broad civil society alliance capable of breaking through the regime’s grip over the deadly border.
We did it. We were successful. We will continue to do it.
This is the reason we are trying to return to our mission at sea with the ship Mare Jonio as quickly as possible.
Because without a European “civil fleet” at sea, governments’ criminal decisions would go unchecked and the courage of migrant women and men would be tragically left alone.
July 04, 2020
Call out to stand in solidarity with the rescued and the crew of TALIA and demand a port of safety, either in Malta or Italy!
Yesterday morning, 52 people in distress at sea reached out to Alarm Phone. They were in the Maltese Search and Rescue (SAR) zone. RCC Malta was informed immediately by Alarm Phone but remained uncooperative, hanging up the phone repeatedly without noting down crucial information about the boat in distress. In the end, it was the merchant vessel TALIA (IMO: 7910888, MMSI: 450569000, under the flag of Lebanon) that conducted the rescue in the Maltese SAR zone (at position 34°42N 013°09E) in the late evening of 3 July, after Sea-Watch’s Seabird had alerted them to the case.
RCC Malta had promised to TALIA to trans-ship the rescued onto Armed Forces of Malta vessels and to disembark them in Malta. This, however, did not happen. TALIA was asked instead to move toward Lampedusa but Italy also denied the merchant vessel to enter Italian territorial waters!
Italy then instructed TALIA to move towards Malta, which it did, but RCC Malta denied the merchant vessel to enter Maltese territorial waters. Therefore people and crew are still urgently looking for a place of safety to disembark.
This lack of cooperation between States is in complete violation with the essence of instruments such as the SAR Convention: it put lives at risks and discourages rescue operations.
In light of this irresponsibility of Maltese and Italian authorities, the TALIA turned to Alarm Phone and the Civil Fleet for support and guidance.
The TALIA acted according to maritime law by rescuing the people in distress and offering them shelter. The livestock carrier interrupted its trajectory in order to carry out a SAR operation – they need a solution immediately. The health situation of the people on board is currently deteriorating, several people are in critical condition.
We call out to stand in solidarity with the rescued and the crew of TALIA and demand a port of safety, either in Malta or Italy. It is the responsibility and duty of these authorities to coordinate a port of safety. These games with people who just survived a Mediterranean crossing have to stop immediately! Let them in!
Alarm Phone, Sea-Watch & Mediterranea
Addresses to contact and demand a place of safety for the rescued people now:
Prime Minister Dr Robert Abela MP
Address: Office of the Prime Minister, Auberge de Castille Valletta VLT 1061
Email: [email protected] Tel: +356 2200 2400
Minister for European and Foreign Affairs
The story of the Syrian family we have onboard now. Father, mother and two children.
His name is M. from Syria (name is changed for security reasons).
“We are from Syria, but life is impossible there.
I have two sons and even the schools are not safe. They are a target for bombs. Sometimes armed men on motorcycles pass by and spread bullets to the windows of the schools. We were living in Damascus, when we had to escape as soon as possible. They were fights, kidnappings, people disappearing on daily basis. I sold my house for nothing and run away.
The day we left, many people were killed including the uncle of my wife. Many friends of mine were killed.
We arrived in Libya, where life was quiet for a period, and I started working in construction sites.
But soon, another war knocked on our door. The war in Libya is more fierce than ever. We had to flee again. My children cannot walk on the streets. There is no hospitals, or doctors. Everyday we hear about people getting killed.
It’s a total chaos in Libya. Different armies, different militias fighting each other.
We had to flee again. This time there was only one road open. That of the sea.
It was a dark night when the Libyans transfered us to a beach and ordered us to board this small fiberglass boat of 5 meters. I thought we would be 10-15 people but we were 43! It was impossible to travel like this.
The Libyans stacked us like animals and pushed us out in the sea under the threat of guns. They gave us a compass and said “just go north”.
Nobody knew how to drive, we were driving in shifts. As a result, we were doing a lot of zig-zags and we spent 2 days at sea without any sign of hope. The waves were big, the boat was extremely overloaded and the water was getting in. I thought “this is the end”.
All the people cut plastic bottles and started taking the water out of the boat.
And this is where you found us. I will never forget that day and will thank you eternally for this.
We just want to feel safe. We dont want to live in war, we want schools, education and a safe environment for my children.
The only way to achieve this is to get on that boat from Libya and cross hundreds of miles of open sea with my family.”
12.22 PM, June 26 2020
Mediterranea Saving Humans’ Mare Jonio ship, currently on patrol in the Central Mediterranean, received a mayday message at 12:22 p.m. today, sent by Alarm Phone to all authorities competent for the area. The mayday message mentioned a black dinghy in distress, carrying about 95 passengers, including 8 children and 20 women, one of whom apparently gave birth during navigation. They left at 11:30pm from Al Khoms, Lybia. They are currently 50 miles east of Misurata, adrift with a broken engine, about 80 miles from our current position.
The Mare Jonio immediately offered to intervene, and is currently heading in that direction at full speed.
We have also realised that the military ships of Eunavformed’s Operation IRINI are operating in the area closest to the dinghy. We have therefore written to MRCC Rome and Eunavformed HQ, asking for these European military ships to intervene urgently, in order to save the lives of these 95 people, and prevent them from being deported back to the Libyan hell they are trying to escape. We emphatically demand this to the Italian Government and the European institutions.
“We can see on our radar on the Mare Jonio that the Libyans have gotten really close to the dinghy in distress, carrying 90 people on board.Soon, dozens of people, including a newborn baby, will be captured and taken back to the Libyan torture camps, with the full responsibility of Italy, which launched the distress signal, but did not intervene after doing so.
We immediately headed to the coordinates of the dinghy reported by Watch The Med – Alarm Phone but we are still too far away. Meanwhile, once again, a crime against humanity is about to be committed, financed by Italian citizens through the country’s funding of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard”.
A patrol boat of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard intercepted and captured “over 70 people” including women and young children on board the dinghy reported by Watch The Med – alarm Phone 52 miles northeast of Misrata.
Our ship Mare Jonio, which was only a few miles away, offered to embark the shipwrecked people onto a safer asset, which could guarantee adequate medical care. The Libyan militias refused.
The command of the Libyan patrol boat refused to provide any information about the presence of eight dead people and a woman who allegedly gave birth on board, as the shipwrecked people had previously reported.
Once again, the money and means provided by Italy to Libya, along with the cooperation of other European governments, have led to the deportation of refugees to a country at war.
June, Saturday 20
On the instructions of the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC of Rome), our ship Mare Jonio is now heading towards the port of Pozzallo, after having rescued 67 people last night who were adrift, at risk of shipwreck, 48 miles from Lampedusa.
These have been difficult days, when we have seen with our own eyes violence and death crossing the Mediterranean. We are now asking that the refugees that we have managed to bring to safety, who have been tried by the terrible conditions of detention in Libya and the long period at sea, be able to land without hesitation. We are also calling for the same for the 211 people rescued by Sea Watch.
We are calling for our ships to be able to go back at sea as soon as possible, because now there is no one left out there to bring help, while every day children, women and men drown in silence or are captured by Libyan militias and returned to the horrors from which they were trying to escape.
We thank our sea and land crews, who once again allowed us to be where we needed to be and where we need to be again.
Every day that a civil society ship has to spend at the dock is a day when more lives are at risk of being lost.
A Libyan militia intercepted a rubber dinghy, in distress a few miles from the location of Mare Jonio, Mediterranea Saving Humans’ ship. The militia captured and took back the survivors.
Mare Jonio (ship) -June 17, 2020- While we celebrate the rescue of children, women and men by Sea Watch3, just a few hours ago, we are also indignant that others were captured, just at the same time, by the Libyan Coast Guard, and brought back to hell, in front of our eyes.
Today, during Mediterranea’s monitoring activities of search and rescue in the SAR zone, close to our location, Libyan authorities carried out yet another crime, a crime financed by Italy, with the European Union’s support. At 1:27pm, Mare Jonio’s radar picked up a signal coming from a vessel that was moving westwards at high speed (over 20 knots), possibly coming from Tripoli, and crossing our patrol route at northwest. Our radar showed us that this vessel was directed at another vessel that was almost stationary, and in obvious distress, on 33 38N 13 35E.
We continued to listen to radio channel vhf 16, which is always open to this type of communication. The Libyans, however, did not communicate anything. Unfortunately, at 2:04pm, the speedboat had reached its target, just 10 nautical miles away from us. When they left, 20 minutes later, we were just 6 miles away from the location, close enough to see who it was very clearly, with our binoculars.
Powerless, we witnessed the intervention of the Libyan militiamen on speed boats donated by our own country, perhaps remotely directed from the Frontex call-sign Osprey3 plane, departed at 5:22 am this morning from Malta’s Luqa Airport: in violation of every international convention, they pushed back dozens of refugees back to the bombs and torture they were trying to escape.
Upon arriving at the location where their meager vessel had been intercepted, we only found its relict – a grey rubber dinghy, its inner tubes damaged and deflated. As always, the engine had already been taken: things and people, sold, in the very same way.
We will continue our mission, monitoring and reporting violations such as this one, in a sea turned into a theater of death and shame by European governments.