01.02.2019, Sea-Watch learned from the media that its vessel Sea-Watch 3, which disembarked 47 people in Catania yesterday after a 10-day odyssey, is blocked in Catania. The blockade of the last remaining rescue ship in the Mediterranean comes only days after the United Nations named criminalisation of sea rescue as the reason for a record death rate. Reportedly, the reasons stated by the Italian Coast Guard are ‘technical irregularities’, however the Coasts Guard was greatly pressured to find a reason to block the ship. This is a clear political move, with supposed irregularities invented only to prevent the Sea-Watch 3 from sailing.
In a statement, the Italian Coast Guard has reported that it conducted a ‘technical verification’ of Sea-Watch 3’s compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and has concluded that irregularities were found which prevent the ship from leaving port until they are resolved. Sea-Watch has not yet received formal notice of this reported development, and the specifics of such supposed irregularities have not been made known. In addition, Sea-Watch is certain that these conclusions are unfounded and that it meets all technical requirements. In another political blockade last summer, dutch inspectors investigated the ship for two days and did not find any irregularities.
Sea-Watch points to this as a clear and deliberate political move, designed to prevent us from conducting rescues. “While the United Nations stresses the importance of civil sea rescue missions, Italy, under the protection of other European governments, turns the Mediterranean into a deadly human rights-free zone by hindering the last current active rescue vessel from its urgently needed rescue mission,” says Johannes Bayer, Chairman of Sea-Watch. “With the delay of our ship in the harbour, the responsibility for further death at sea is taken, deliberately and with impunity. To hinder rescue workers is a criminal act itself.”
Blocking the Sea-Watch 3 is part of a longstanding and coordinated Italian government action against sea rescue organisations, such as Jugend Rettet, Proactiva Open Arms, Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee, for various reasons of questionable legitimacy. “We can only conclude that we were ordered to Catania because it is easier to facilitate the criminalisation of Sea-Watch in this particular city; its notorious prosecutor has a clear political agenda against us. It is obvious to us that Italy and the EU are pursuing an anti-immigration policy at the expense of human rights and human lives,” says Bayer.
“The commander of Sea-Watch has not committed any crime and no consideration has even been given to the possibility of seizing the ship“, Siracusa prosecutor, Fabio Scavone, stated on 28 January, after Salvini had threatened to investigate crew and ship. Since there is clearly no misconduct from our side, and no legal basis to block the Sea-Watch 3, Italy is resorting to a deplorable alternative; invent any reason to prevent us from our mission.
“Evidently, Italy and Europe do not want to have witnesses to their deadly policies, and they will use all means necessary, and even illegal, to hinder migration,” says Bayer, 31. “However we will never accept that the Mediterranean becomes a place where human rights violations go unnoticed, and where the culpability of our European governments in the rising number of deaths escapes accountability.”
Sea-Watch stands in full confidence that it complies with all technical and legal regulations to conduct its work, and strongly condemns this underhanded political tactic which will result in more preventable and unnecessary death at sea.