NGOs comments on the Safe Port decree: “Saving all lives, on land or at sea, is possible and a moral obligation.”


The NGOs — Sea-Watch, Doctors Without Borders, Open Arms and Mediterranea Saving Humans — are urgently concerned that the Italian government is exploiting the current health crisis to close its ports to people rescued at sea. They are doing this by classifying all civilian search-and-rescue ships as foreign vessels.

The decree’s true objective is to stop rescue activities in the Mediterranean without providing for alternative means to save those fleeing civil unrest in Libya.

Italy has stripped its ports of “safe place” status as a European port. Italy has put itself on par

with countries at war, countries who do not respect human rights and countries where access to ports is denied arbitrarily.

It would have been possible to find numerous other solutions that could have reconciled the moral obligation to guarantee the health of everyone on land with rescuing lives at risk at sea. This type of obligation cannot put rescue ships on the same level of importance as with cruise ships.

During this time in which Italy requests and receives support and solidarity from international partners and NGOs, to actively fight the Covid-19 crisis— the Italian government should show the same solidarity to the vulnerable people who risk their lives at sea because they have no other alternative.

At the present time, none of the undersigned organizations of this bulletin is at sea with their

own vessels so as to conform to the preventative sanitary measures necessary to confront Covid-19. These NGOs are at present reorganizing their internal activities and operations as a consequence.

We are deeply aware of the crisis we are all living through. So deep is our commitment to helping in this tragic emergency, we have made all our resources and personnel available to the Italian healthcare system involved in fighting Covid-19. This fact is well known.

We are not at sea. However, together with 150 shipwreck survivors, among which was a pregnant woman, one of the humanitarian ships sailing under a foreign flag referred to in the decree is.

The current health crisis does not affect the need to find a dignified solution for Alan Kurdi as soon as possible.

In fact, the decree exploits the health crisis. It repeats the same strategy previously used, not long ago, to obstruct sea rescue. The decree does so at a difficult time, in which more than ever it is necessary to assume responsibility and comply with E.U. regulations regarding sea rescues.

This decree, as did the previous Safety Decree Bis, classifies the entry of foreign vessels which recue survivors from the central Mediterranean Sea as a threat. This classification is contrary to international norms and shifts responsibility to Libya or demanding disembarkation in faraway countries.

Throughout these difficult days, especially for those who continue to live and for those who have lost dear ones, empathy and solidarity with others have allowed all of us to remain strong. It is exactly in a moment such as this

that the suffering of citizens enduring a health crisis should not be transformed into the basis to deny support– in the form of a legal obligation– to those who, while not losing their ability to breathe in an intensive care unit, they are losing that capacity by drowning at sea.

All lives should be saved. All vulnerable people should be protected, whether on land or at sea. It is possible to do so— and it is our obligation.