Italy’s new Interior Minister, Matteo Pingedosi, has drafted new measures alleging that NGOs have breached procedure by not properly coordinating their rescues, creating the basis for Italy closing ports. Piaredosi has also asked the countries whose flags they fly to intervene.
Italy’s posture, remaining silent in the face of repeated demands for a safe port, effectively stopped four rescue ships operated by the charity at sea. It is reminiscent of Italy’s anti-NGO policies under former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is now in charge of ports as infrastructure minister.
Meanwhile, Italian authorities have continued to allow people rescued by Italian patrols at sea, including 456, to arrive in Calabria on Thursday.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Friday said international law clearly states that Italy, as the nearest port, “must let ships in”. He mentioned the Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking with 234 people on board a ship operated by the SOS Mediterranee group, which has one of its headquarters in France.
“We have no doubt that Italy will welcome the ship … that Italy will respect international law,” he told French broadcaster BFM TV.
Germany’s foreign ministry said it had asked Italy to quickly intervene to help those on board the German-flagged Humanitarian 1 ship, with 179 people on board. The boat is currently east of Sicily carrying 100 unaccompanied minors and a 7-month-old baby, charity SOS Humanity said.
“They continued to be exposed to the elements, had to spend cold nights on deck. Spokesman Wasil Schauseil said they were still sleeping on the floor while the wind and waves increased. Fever is also spreading among those rescued, with a COVID test coming back negative.
Darmanin said that France and Germany have told Italy they are both ready to take in some migrants so that Italy does not have to be “the burden alone”.
Also at sea is the ship Geo Barents operated by Doctors Without Borders, also flagged by Norway, with 572 people on board, including 60 unaccompanied minors as well as families families with children and the elderly. And another Germany-based charity, Mission Lifeline, said its ship Rise Above picked up 95 people in three operations on Thursday, and neither Italy nor Malta responded to requests for one. port.
“The proportion of women, children and infants is unusually high, about half of the people on board. We are especially concerned about the health of eight babies and young children. Many people had been at sea for days at the time of the rescue and were extremely exhausted,” said Heremine Poschmann, a spokeswoman for Mission Life.
With bad weather forecast for the coming hours and with a total of 104 people on board a relatively small 25-meter (82-foot) boat, she said. Normally they would transfer those immediately rescued to other larger charity boats, but the other three were already operating at full capacity, she said.
Migrants rescued at sea have mostly passed through Libya, often tortured by traffickers along the way, as they seek a better life in Europe.
Charities have denied circumvention procedures and say their mission is to rescue those in distress at sea. According to the UN refugee agency, coastal states have an obligation to receive people from rescue ships “as soon as possible”, and governments should work together to provide a safe place for those survive.
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