Sea-Watch demands disembarkation of 43 survivors, on World Refugee Day tomorrow

Credit: Till Egen / Sea-Watch.org

After being denied a Port of Safety for 7 days, the 43 people rescued by the Sea-Watch 3 are still stuck on board the ship. Sea-Watch calls on European leaders to make disembarkation happen immediately. This unbearable situation cannot continue on World Refugee Day. The solution is there, more than 60 cities have declared their willingness to take people.

On June 12, 53 people, among them 9 women, 39 men, 2 toddlers and 3 unaccompanied minors, were rescued by the Sea Watch 3. The unseaworthy rubber boat was located in international waters, about 47 nautical miles off Zawiya, Libya.

Later that day, in an unprecedented attempt to make Sea-Watch complicit in grave human rights violations, the so-called Libyan Coast Guard had named Tripoli as a Port of Safety and asked the ship to transport the survivors back to Libya illegally. The Italian minister Matteo Salvini in all seriousness demanded from Sea-Watch to follow the Libyan instructions.

Libya, where migrants face unlawful detention, rape, torture and slavery, is not a Port of Safety”, says Carola Rackete, Captain of the Sea-Watch 3. “We had to reject this call to break international law and head towards Lampedusa, the closest safe port to where the rescue took place.” The ship arrived at the border of the Italian territorial waters on June 15.

Already on June 14, a new populist law introduced by Interior Minister Salvini was passed, which criminalizes civil rescue organizations landing rescued people in Italy, and threatens captains and ship owners with fines of up to €50.000 if they enter Italian waters without permission. The law massively widens the scope of police measures.

Another tactic of Italy criminalizing the duty to sea rescue in the Mediterranean, and the rest of the EU standing by silently.”, says Philipp Hahn, Head of Mission on the Sea-Watch 3. “It is outrageous that Italy threatens us with fines of up to €50,000 and seizure of our ship for saving human lives, in clear violation of international legislation and human rights. What’s next, will medics have to pay a fine for taking patients to the hospital?

On June 15, the Italian Coast Guard conducted a medical evaluation on board and decided the disembarkation of five vulnerable people and five accompanying persons. Yet, the situation is really tense: “Many of the rescued need medical care and suffer from dehydration due to seasickness. The disembarkation of a part of the group had a strong psychological effect on the people remaining on board. These people need a port of safety, and they need it now.”  says Verena Wurz, medic on board the Sea-Watch 3.

Meanwhile, as part of the international Seebrücke movement, more than 60 cities and municipalities across Europe have declared themselves ‘safe harbors’ in solidarity with refugees and sea rescue, being willing to accept more asylum seekers than the quotas imposed: “As the EU ducks out, civil society takes responsibility. The offer of the solidarity cities to welcome people has been made. It is up to the EU and the German Federal Government to make this happen, and up to Italy to safely disembark these 43 people now. Soapbox speeches on World Refugee Day do not help anyone, what is needed is immediate action.” says Captain Rackete.