The Mare Jonio, a 37.5 m Italian flagged vessel run by the Italian civil society project “Mediterranea” in cooperation with Sea-Watch, has set sails to the Central Mediterranean Sea. Accompanied by the Astral, of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, the Mare Jonio is bound to resume civil sea rescue at the deadliest border of the world, as the death toll is at a record high due to an ongoing political crackdown on civilian rescuers. Today the ship reached international waters.
On the 5th anniversary of the deadly shipwreck of 3 of October 2013, the Mare Jonio has set sail to the Central Mediterranean SAR zone. With the Sea-Watch 3 arbitrarily impounded by Malta and the MS Aquarius’ flag withdrawn, due to political pressure from the Italian government, right now, the Mare Jonio and its escort constitute the only dedicated rescue force in the area. More than one out of ten persons who attempted to reach Italy from North Africa perished in September according to official data. In reality, however, the death toll is likely to be much higher, as no one is present in the SAR zone to bear witness to the deadly consequences of European border policy. “Rescue at sea – a marker of our shared humanity – has been taken hostage by politics”, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi stated on Monday.
“European states have made more than clear that they rather see people drown than let them arrive on European soil. In contrast, the Mare Jonio convoy is a sign that the civil society has not yet given up European values and is ready to continue defending human rights at sea.”, Sea-Watch chairman Johannes Bayer says. “Just this Monday, our aircrew spotted a dead body; an indication of yet another unknown tragedy. This is why we now need to take a firm stance and why Sea-Watch is supporting the Mediterranea project from its inception, financially as well as with the crew and knowledge we have gathered over numerous rescue missions.”
“We are happy that with our friends on the Astral and the Mare Jonio, now at least a little rescue fleet, accompanied by the plane Colibri, is on its way to the deadliest waters worldwide”, says Sea-Watch Crewmember Tilman Telteman. “We do not have much capacities, but the big rescue vessels are chained in port, so we are doing what we can.”
“Mediterranea is an Italian civil society platform, that Sea-Watch supports, that wants to save human lives, but that also wants to save European society from the dehumanization of the times we live in”, explains Giorgia Linardi, Sea-Watch ambassador to Italy. “Through the act of civil sea rescue, we want to come back to the idea of a society founded on solidarity and equal rights for everyone. If it still makes a difference which passport someone holds when it comes to the rescue of his or her life, and if human dignity becomes violable, the very foundations of our society are at risk.”
The Mare Jonio will reach the SAR zone on Saturday.