Mediterranea’s ship is heading to Sicily with 92 rescued people on board: “Italian Interior Ministry has 10 hours to organize. Then we go in”
No more unnecessary waiting and suffering for shipwrecked people rescued at sea.
The MARE JONIO ship is heading toward the Sicilian coast with 92 people on board, including 30+ unaccompanied minors, rescued in two separate operations on June 5th and 6th in international waters in the Libyan and Maltese SAR zones, and 11 members of our Crew.
In accordance with international law, at 2:40 p.m. yesterday afternoon we requested the assignment of a Safe Port of Disembarkation (PoS – Place of Safety) from the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Rome (IT MRCC), which responded at 3:48 p.m. yesterday saying that “the request had been forwarded for determinations to the competent National Authority”. That is, the Ministry of the Interior. Having then received no further instructions, this morning at 7:40 a.m. we repeated the request, and the response from the Coast Guard operations room was the same: MRCC is also awaiting the decision of the Interior Ministry.
We are an Italian flag vessel, and only the MRCC Rome can coordinate and assist us.
The Ministry of Interior, well-known in Italy as “il Viminale”, which has been required since 2017 to assign as soon as possible a safe port of disembarkation for people rescued at sea from the risk of shipwreck – and in precarious conditions after having previously been victims of all kinds of violence, torture and deprivation – has not yet provided instructions to MRCC Rome, and thus to MARE JONIO. Right now, Sea-Watch-3, another civilian rescue ship with 352 shipwrecked people on board, has also been waiting at sea for four days. Too long, while people’s suffering is prolonged.
We have informed the authorities that we are proceeding towards Sicily, also in view of worsening weather conditions.
We are aware of the crowded situation at the Lampedusa hotspot, due not to numbers or particular emergencies, but only to the disorganization and mismanagement of the transfer of people from the island of Lampedusa to Sicily and Italy. An excessive slowness that suggests a desire to “show off” the propaganda about the “invasion”. This while it was seen as fair and materially possible to welcome in Italy nearly 130,000 refugees from Ukraine in three months. Twice the number of refugees arriving in an entire year from the sea.
We are heading to the southern Sicilian coast, because we want to facilitate landing procedures, not burden Lampedusa, which must continue to be “the island that saves” and not a refugee camp. And we reiterate that instead of having spent 2 million euros a month on each absurd and useless “quarantine ship”, resources should be used for a rapid transfer system and for reception places in Italy worthy of the name.
The government’s justification is that “there are logistical problems”. These problems though are due to the fact that no one has restored a reception system that was largely dismantled between 2018 and 2019. And every time we have to raise our voices to obtain what is a human right: to give reception and assistance as soon as possible to shipwrecked people fleeing from detention camps and torture. Something that, according to the 1979 Hamburg Convention on Sea Rescue, which in our country has the rank of a constitutional norm, is an obligation for the Italian state.
This way of doing things has to stop. It is about politics, not “logistics” or “technicalities”. It is about the Government, not our Coast Guard.
In this Mission #12, we have been forced to face military patrol boats – supplied and financed by Italy in the hands of Libyan militiamen. We had to do this to avoid very serious violations of the Geneva Convention that Italy signed. Capturing and deporting to Libya children, women and men who are fleeing from that hell is a crime as well as a horrible thing. Just think if the Ukrainians fleeing were handed back to the Russian army. Are they treated differently by Europe just because they are white?
Even after the first rescue operations in our sea, we had to continue patrolling. Without the ships of the civil society – of the European Civil Fleet – anything could happen to thousands of human beings on the move: to die by drowning or to be deported. Yet the sea is full of planes and drones from Frontex and EU countries. The sea is also full of Italian and European military ships, as proven by the story of the Sicilian fishing boats attacked with machine guns by Libyan militias from Bengasi. They received protection from the Italian Navy, as it should be. The patrol boat Grecale was in fact able to reach the fishing boats within 20 minutes from the attack.
This must stop. The decision to let people die or be captured at sea, consigning them to a fate of torture and violence, is political not “technical”.
The situation today is very simple: either we are immediately assigned a port of disembarkation, a “place of safety” as required by international and national law, or as soon as we arrive on the Sicilian coast, we will enter the nearest available port. The Viminale has 10 hours to organize this.
MEDITERRANEA Saving Humans
8th June 2022, 11 a.m.