Today, on Friday, Sea-Watch has filed an appeal against the blockade of the Sea-Watch 4 at the Administrative Court in Palermo. Italian authorities had blocked the rescue ship after a port state control on 19.09.2020 under flimsy grounds. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 20 people drowned this week alone while trying to flee across the central Mediterranean.
After an 11-hour inspection on 19.09.2020 by Italian authorities, reasons given for the blockade included that the Sea-Watch 4 had too many life jackets on board and that the sewage system was not designed for the number of possible rescued persons. It was only in July that the German authorities confirmed to Sea-Watch that the ship met all the German flag state’s safety requirements. Besides, Italian authorities ignored the fact that sea rescue as acute emergency aid is mandatory for all ships. However, these politically motivated inspections do not aim at increasing ship safety, but at preventing rescue operations in the Mediterranean. With the Sea-Watch 4, the fifth civilian rescue ship is hindered from returning back to operations through a port state control. With the appeal, Sea-Watch aims at the suspension and subsequent annulment of the detention decree, which is released against the actual European and international maritime regulations on the safety of navigation to which the Sea Watch 4 is fully complying.
“Under the pretext of security, the rescue of people is deliberately prevented with flimsy justifications. We must not get used to rescue ships being illegally blocked and Europe letting people drown as a deterrent. Those who fight for human rights must do so at all levels. This is why we filed an appeal against the arbitrary blockade of Sea-Watch 4. We are not only morally right; our ships are safe and ready to rescue”, says Johannes Bayer, Chairman of Sea-Watch.
In the migration pact presented by the EU Commission and the ‘Recommendations for Sea Rescue’ contained therein, it is clear that Italy’s bureaucratic harassment is to be Europeanized. In the name of alleged safety, the EU Commission wants to make the work of rescue ships more difficult, even though they have long since fulfilled national and international registration standards – as was confirmed by the flag state in the case of Sea-Watch 4. The actual problem is still being completely ignored: People are drowning in the Mediterranean. States must finally fulfill their duty to rescue instead of imposing arbitrariness and harassment against civil sea rescue organizations in EU agreements.
“It is shameful that the EU is debating excessive regulations and safety standards for sea rescue ships while at the same time people are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea without EU states fulfilling their duty to rescue. Instead of making ‘recommendations’ to make our work more difficult, the European Commission must ensure that the Member States comply with the existing laws. The German Federal Government in its position as Presidency of the Council and as a negotiating partner in its role as flag state, must take a clear position on this and use its office to put an end to the dying in the Mediterranean as well as the racist isolation policy of Europe”, says Marie Naass, Head of Advocacy of Sea-Watch.