This afternoon the organisations involved in rescue operations in the central Mediterranean met the Italian Minister of the Interior, Luciana Lamorgese, for a discussion on search and rescue activities.
The representatives of Emergency, Médecins Sans Frontières, MEDITERRANEA Saving Humans, Open Arms, ResQ-People saving People, Sea-Watch and SOS MEDITERRANEE, noted the openness to dialogue offered by the Minister, reiterating at the same time how rescue at sea can never be negotiable.
“Discussions on migration policies cannot become an impediment to rescue at sea, which is a legal and a moral obligation,” said the organisations’ representatives. While it is true that the so-called “first port states” such as Italy, must be able to count on the solidarity of other EU members, the emergency at sea does not stop and indeed becomes more deadly every day. The NGOs ask Italy and Europe to set up an effective search and rescue system whose primary purpose is to safeguard human life in the Mediterranean.
The organisations also called for an end to the hostile climate for civil rescue. “We have asked the Minister to recognise the role of humanitarian organisations, which are affected by criminalisation, by releasing our ships that are still under detention,” said the organisations’ representatives.
Agreements with Libya were also at the centre of the talks. “Blocking departures, to the detriment of the protection of human rights and continued deaths at sea, can never be the solution,” say the NGOs. “This form of support and funding must be stopped as soon as possible. Medium- to long-term solutions must be found to build safe channels of regular access to Europe. But, in the meantime, we cannot continue to let people die at sea or be returned to a country where they are forced to suffer abuses of all kinds.”
During the meeting, the NGOs urged Minister Lamorgese to take on a role of effective coordination with the other ministries involved, in particular with the Ministry of Sustainable Infrastructures and Mobility, regarding administrative detentions, and with the Ministry of Health for Covid protocols and quarantine management.