41 survivors and 12 deceased in a shipwreck off the Libyan Coast yesterday morning are still stuck on a US warship as Italy closed its ports to rescue vessels. Sea-Watch strongly denounces the fact that once again people in distress at sea are being held in diplomatic limbo. The dispute on migration must not be carried out at the expense of people in need. A surveillance aircraft of the civil rescue fleet is currently operating in the SAR zone to search for further distress cases and bodies of yesterday’s shipwreck. The Sea-Watch 3 is also patrolling the SAR zone in close proximity to the US warship. Meanwhile, we still await instructions as no state has taken responsibility so far. The Sea-Watch 3 is currently the only dedicated rescue asset in the Mediterranean Sea.
At 12.36 local time, the Sea-Watch office received a request by a US Navy warship to take over 41 survivors and 12 deceased in a shipwreck 20 nautical miles off the Libyan coast. Our vessel Sea-Watch 3 proceeded towards the given position as the only civil rescue asset left in the mediterranean sea at that moment. “It is unacceptable that people who have literally been picked out of the water, who have seen their friends drowning, still do not get a place of safety, this is a damning indictment of the European Union’s policy on immigration. A dispute about the distribution of asylum seekers must not be carried out at the expense of people in maritime distress” says Johannes Bayer, Sea-Watch chairman and head of the current mission of the Sea-Watch 3. “We urge the European governments to find a quick solution for this humiliating tragedy”.
Meanwhile, Italian Coast Guard asset CP941 is disembarking 932 people and 2 dead bodies in the Sicilian port of Catania today, which shows a double standard upheld by the Italian government.
NGO vessels have consistently taken responsibility for search and rescue activities in the world’s most dangerous migration route, yet they have become the scapegoat of the Italian government, as it attempts to pressure the rest of the EU to share in the responsibility towards people in distress and in wider migration policy reforms, including that of the Dublin III regulation. Sea-Watch therefore urges the European states to make way for a political solution for this charade; after safe arrival to Italy, there are also many roads that lead from Rome.
Furthermore, yesterday’s shipwreck shows a deadly lack of rescue capacity at sea, and it is evident that in the absence of safe and legal passage to Europe, such shipwrecks will only continue to occur. “If the Aquarius wasn’t stuck on the way to Valencia, maybe those people could have been rescued” Bayer says. Still there is no knowledge about the real number of drownings as it is likely not all bodies could be retrieved. “We urge the European states to take responsibility and to stop gambling with lives at sea,” Bayer says.
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please credit: Erik Marquardt / Sea-Watch.org
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