Published by Mediterranea's board | 15 / Oct / 2023

47 people rescued and disembarked in Lampedusa by the MARE JONIO

Positive conclusion of the first operation of Mission 14 of MEDITERRANEA Saving Humans

The first operation of the fourteenth MEDITERRANEANEA Saving Humans monitoring and observation mission ended with the disembarkation in Lampedusa of the 47 people rescued, the port designated by the Italian authorities.

The rescued people, including seven women, a seven-year-old girl and 16 unaccompanied minors, had set sail from Sfax, Tunisia, fleeing violent racist campaigns and the resulting difficult living conditions imposed by the authoritarian regime of Kaïs Saïed on people from sub-Saharan Africa. The people rescued are from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Sudan and South Sudan. Despite a case of hypothermia, injuries caused by the sheet metal of the iron boat they were on and burns from contact with petrol, the shipwrecked people are now in good health.

"We set sail from Trapani on Friday evening and by 3pm yesterday we were already south-west of the island of Lampedusa. We had received several reports of boats in distress in the SAR zone attributed to Libya from Alarm Phone and Sea-Watch's Seabird aircraft. We were just heading south towards the last known positions of these cases," said Sheila Melosu - the head of mission on board MARE JONIO, "when during our binocular observation rounds, about 40 nautical miles from Lampedusa, we spotted this iron boat overloaded with people. As we approached, we saw that it was taking on water and was in danger of capsizing. We immediately contacted our Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome and the Maltese authorities in charge of the area to ask for instructions. Given Malta's silence and the real risk of the boat sinking, we had to proceed to rescue all the people and take them on board, where we were able to provide first aid. Late in the evening, the MRCC in Rome informed us that the port of Lampedusa had been designated as the point of disembarkation. The operation at the island's pier was completed at 3am last night".

"This case shows once again the importance of the presence of the Civil Fleet in the Central Mediterranean. - Melosu continued: "Without our intervention, this boat, which had not been reported, could have sunk at any moment, with tragic consequences for the 47 people on board. In addition to a trickle of invisible shipwrecks, especially along the Tunisian route, dozens of 'small' shipwrecks like the ones in Cutro and Pylos have brought the total number of lives lost in the central Mediterranean in the last nine months to over 2,300".

"Despite the obstacles created by the government in recent months," adds Laura Marmorale, president of MEDITERRANEANEA Saving Humans, "we will not stop and will continue to intervene at sea, together with the Civil Fleet and the wider rescue community. It is striking that the MSF ship Geo Barents, which rescued 63 people in distress further south than the MARE JONIO, was assigned the port of Genoa instead of a closer Sicilian port, as was rightly done in our case. This punitive attitude of the government towards non-governmental vessels must stop: shipwrecked people cannot be forced to suffer further by spending unnecessary days at sea before disembarking. All rescuing vessels, whether coastguard, military or civilian, must be allowed to disembark at the nearest suitable port".

"On the other hand, I am particularly happy about the rescue that took place yesterday", concluded the President of MEDITERRANEANEA, "because precisely in these days when all we hear from the rest of the world is news of violence and war, destruction and death, here it is life that prevails, the life of people who have been rescued from certain death and to whom we wish a better future in Europe".

Lampedusa, 15th October 2023

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