The Sea-Eye 4 heads towards Italy as the mayor of Palermo says the city will welcome the ship’s 400 rescued refugees
MALTA refused to allow refugees onboard an NGO ship to come ashore today, despite many of them having been rescued within its own search-and-rescue (SAR) zone.
Civilian rescuers on their maiden voyage aboard the Sea-Eye 4 saved the lives of over 400 people in less than 72 hours in the central Mediterranean over the weekend to Monday, with no help from the authorities.
On their last mission, the crew picked up more than 170 people inside Malta’s SAR zone, a section of the central Mediterranean in which the island nation is legally obliged to coordinate rescues and bring people to safety.
In footage filmed aboard the Sea-Eye 4, posted to social media today by Sea-Eye, the ship’s owners, the charity’s spokeswoman Sophie Weidenhiller urged the European authorities to allow the rescued to come ashore.
Among them, she said, “we have pregnant women, we have children, we have babies, we have many unaccompanied minors. And everybody aboard here is exhausted.”
Sea-Eye chairman Gorden Isler said yesterday that the Maltese authorities had rejected their request for a safe harbour.
“We are now reaching the Italian SAR zone and urgently ask the Italian Coastguard to take over the coordination,” Mr Isler said.
Later in the afternoon as the ship sailed closer to the Italian island of Sicily, Leoluca Orlando, the mayor of Palermo told Sea-Eye that his city was open to them.
“Palermo with its port and all its social organisations is ready to welcome,” Mr Leoluca said. “The decision of the competent authorities is awaited.
“It’s time for [the] EU to activate the Rescue European Civil Service, to organise the rescue of lives by supporting ships, NGOs and the many other entities and their commitment to save lives on the migration routes to Europe.”