Recent events in Italy paint a dystopian picture for civil sea rescue: a few days after the political blockade of the rescue ship Sea-Watch 3, Italy votes for a hard right-wing parliamentary shift. The alliance around right-wing radical Giorgia Meloni and her party Fratelli d’Italia, whose election campaign also focused on restricting migration, became the strongest force. Instead of being discouraged, Sea-Watch, together with solidary actors, sends a new rescue ship to the central Mediterranean. The Sea-Watch 5 is a 12 years young supply vessel of 58 meters: faster, bigger, and more efficient than any of her successors.
Since Wednesday, September 21, 2022, the Italian authorities have been blocking the Sea-Watch 3. Under the recurring arbitrary justification of having rescued too many people, the recently issued ECJ ruling is being ignored. Only at the beginning of August, the court declared those arbitrary port state controls unlawful. Yesterday then, more than 40% of the voting Italians decided for a hard parliamentary shift to the right and thus also voted for illegitimate restrictions of the right to asylum and migration.
Instead of being discouraged by these events, Sea-Watch, together with European civil society, finds a strong answer: the Sea-Watch 5, a new rescue ship in the Mediterranean. After extensive surveys and examinations of various options, Sea-Watch decided to purchase the Ocean Don – a ship that is larger, faster, and more efficient than any previous vessel the organization has sent to the central Mediterranean. As a result, it can accommodate more rescued people, who can also be better cared for. As it was built in 2010, it is in perfect technical condition at only 12 years old, making it better equipped to withstand future attempts of criminalization and intimidation. The Ocean Don will be renamed Sea-Watch 5 and refitted and prepared for her first deployment.
“We strongly oppose the criminalization of migration and sea rescue by a party coalition with fascist roots. Instead of ‘Mother, Italian, Christian’, we say ‘sea rescue, human rights, Sea-Watch 5’“, says Johannes Bayer, board member of Sea-Watch.
The Sea-Watch 5 is being sent by a solidary civil society. The ship is not an act of one organization alone; it is solidarity in action. Besides numerous private donors, also the alliance United4Rescue supports the vessel financially. Liza Pflaum, deputy chairwoman: “After the victory of the right-wing alliance in Italy, human rights in the Mediterranean Sea are in danger of drowning for good. Now more than ever, it depends on civil society showing solidarity. With the new alliance ship, we set a strong sign of solidarity and humanity against the deadly deterrence policy of the EU states!”