Today at 13:40 the ship MARE JONIO set sail from the Sicilian port of Mazara del Vallo for the eleventh observation, monitoring, search and rescue mission of MEDITERRANEA Saving Humans.
In the next 24 hours the ship will reach the SAR area assigned to Libya in the Central Mediterranean, where Sea Watch 3 has already been sailing for the past few days. According to official data provided by the IOM, the United Nations migration organisation, in this stretch of sea, three hundred eighteen people have already lost their lives in the first three months of 2022 alone. From experience and from the cases of ‘ghost shipwrecks’ reported since the beginning of the year, we unfortunately know that there are many more dead and missing. Only a week ago, Alarm Phone, the 24-hour hotline run by a network of African and European activists, reported the umpteenth disappearance of a rubber boat with more than a hundred people on board that had left the Libyan coast east of Tripoli. Only four survivors of this shipwreck, whose dynamics are still not clear, partly because the survivors, recovered at sea by the merchant ship Alegra 1, flying the Panamanian flag, were handed over to Libyan patrol boats and deported back to the country from which they were trying to flee.
Unfortunately, they were not the only case: since the beginning of the year, at least 3,456 women, men and children have been captured at sea by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard and other militias, financed and supported by the Italian State and other EU Member States, and often informed and coordinated by the institutions of these countries. The systematic violation of people’s fundamental rights at the continental borders was documented yesterday by the Council of Europe, in a 64-page report drafted by Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic. The Council of Europe denounces how “the warm and welcoming response given to 4 million fleeing Ukrainians is in contrast to the violations committed against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from other parts of the world.” Reporting on data collected by the Danish Refugee Council, Mijatovic counts “30,309 incidents of refoulement between December 2019 and September 2021, often with excessive use of force” along the European Union’s land and sea borders.
Precisely in the face of these inhumane policies, MEDITERRANEA Saving Humans – whose activists have just returned from the second #SafePassage mission to Ukraine, accompanying to Italy over 200 vulnerable refugees without any discrimination on the basis of nationality and origin – returns again to the sea to safeguard human life and for the reception in Europe of those who are equally fleeing, via Libya, from wars, ecological disasters, hunger and misery, persecution and violence. Mission 11 of the ship MARE JONIO, the only asset of the European “civili fleet” flying the Italian flag, is the second departure of 2022: last January we already rescued 214 women, men and children who were on board two boats in distress. Leading the mission at sea, which will have to contend with particularly unstable weather conditions, are Head of Mission Luca Casarini, commander Massimiliano Napolitano, first officer Davide Dinicola and a team that includes rescuers Iason Apostolopoulos and Matteo Fogli and on-board doctor Giovanni Dal Vecchio for a total crew of eleven.