After a forced break of more than three months due to closed borders and logistical impossibilities in Italy and throughout Europe, the Sea-Watch 3 started its first mission since the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic on June 6th. After one and a half weeks in the central Mediterranean, marked by interceptions and pull-backs in violation of international law by the EU-financed so-called Libyan Coast Guard and two shipwrecks with 12 and 54 dead, the crew was able to rescue more than 90 people from a rubber boat in distress this morning.
“After months in which refugees here were faced only with the cold ignorance of the European border regime, we are happy to now have saved nearly 100 people from disappearing in either a watery grave or in the detention centers of Libya,” says head of mission Philipp Hahn on board Sea-Watch 3, “if the Corona pandemic has shown us one thing, it is that we are globally dependent on each other. No one should be left behind here, between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
The survivors were safely taken on board by the Sea-Watch crew about 29 nautical miles off Az-Zawiya, Libya, in international waters. Among them are about 20 women and children, as well as several injured (including chemical burns from the fuel-saltwater mixture in the dinghy), who are being treated in the ship’s hospital. The overcrowded rubber boat had been spotted by the crew of Sea-Watch 3 on patrol. The Sea-Watch search plane Moonbird discovered a second boat with about 70 people in distress shortly after the rescue. Due to the favourable weather conditions, it is to be assumed that there may be further cases.
Following the arbitrary blockade of the ships Alan Kurdi (Sea-Eye) and Aita Mari (SMH/Maydayterraneo) by Italian authorities and considerable logistical difficulties caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the Sea-Watch 3 is the first rescue vessel to patrol the world’s deadliest border for over eight weeks. During these eight weeks’ rescue gap, more than 35 boats were reported having set off towards Europe, many of which were intercepted by the EU-backed so-called Libyan Coast Guard and returned to the country at war.
Right at the start of the Sea-Watch 3 mission, on the weekend of 6 June, at least 54 people had died in a shipwreck off the coast of Tunisia. Last weekend, 12 more drowned in a shipwreck in the immediate vicinity of today’s rescue. 20 survivors were brought back to Libya, where they face illegal detention, torture, rape and forced labour.
“Many European politicians are currently loudly denouncing racist police violence in the USA. But out here, where the respect for Black Lives has decreased continuously for years, thousands are struggling for breath without authorities having to physically kneel on their neck“, explains Chris Grodotzki of Sea-Watch and adds: “This too is systemic racism“.