Meanwhile, activists blast the Greek government on anniversary of Moria fire
AN NGO ship saved the lives of over 80 people in two rescue operations today, the first one occurring within hours of reaching “the most dangerous frontier on the planet.”
The Astral, a ship operated by the Spanish charity Open Arms, left Syracuse on the Italian island of Sicily yesterday afternoon.
The ship entered the central Mediterranean around 6.30am (UK time). Then, around 1pm, Open Arms announced that the Astral had found a boat carrying 72 people, including six women and four children near Lampedusa.
“[They] were travelling on a precarious, double-deck boat, in extremely dangerous conditions [for] 20 hours [in the] Mediterranean after departing from Tunisia,” the organisation said on social media.
The crew transfered the 72 castaways to the Italian coastguards around an hour later.
Right before The Civil Fleet published this story, Open Arms posted on its social media accounts that the Astral had found another 14 people on an overloaded barge near Lampedusa this afternoon.
The group is thought to have spent three days at sea in rough conditions.
“Our crew escorted them for more than an hour,” Open Arms said. “The [Italian] coastguard has finally transferred them to a safe harbour.”
The Astral’s 86 rescued refugees can now be added to the 39,410 others the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates to have arrived in Italy by sea between January 1 to August 31 this year.
Publishing new figures this morning, the UN-affiliated organisation said that of those arrivals 18,089 people departed from Libya and 14,560 left from Tunisia.
“The number of those intercepted at sea and returned to Libya by the Libyan Coastguard, 23,350, is impressive,” the IOM said.
“We reiterate that Libya is not a safe port.”
Meanwhile, activists marked the one-year anniversary of the fire that destroyed the notorious Moria migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.
The authorities left about 12,000 people without help for days after the camp, originally built to house 3,000, was destroyed by the blaze before a new camp was hastily built on a former military firing range.
Refugee rescue organisation Sea-Watch said that one year on from the fire, European governments are continuing to deprive refugees on the Greek islands of their dignity and of their fundamental rights.
“The EU’s promise of a ‘fresh new start’ was followed by an even worst [camp], Moria 2.0,” Sea-Watch said.
“Currently, 6,185 people are still stuck in miserable camps on the Greek islands as a deterrent. Let’s not forget them! We demand: Evacuate them now, allow reception, abolish all camps and decriminalise refugees.”
Six Afghan youths were charged earlier this year for burning down Moria in a legal process that was widely condemned.
No Border Kitchen Lesbos — an activist group providing food and support to people stuck in Greece’s migrant camps — said the Greek government and the European Union had failed to show “a single instance of humanity or compassion, values that are supposedly held high by the ‘liberal democracies’ that Europe consists of.”
In a post on its Facebook profile, No Border Kitchen Lesbos said: “In a situation like this, we can see the true face of this European Union: a fortress built on exclusionary and racist foundations, enforced with a monopoly on violence, covered by a blanket of lip service to ideals that they only uphold when it is convenient for them.
“We commemorate this today not only because of the event that happened on that fateful day last year, but also to remember Moria itself, as Europe and it’s leaders and bureaucrats are more then eager to forget and bury the fact it existed.
“We will never forget the years of suffering and pain that Moria represents for thousands of people trying to find a better life.
“Forever burned into the memory of those where forced to inhabit that place and those who have seen it, and heard the stories of despair and hopelessness that came out of it of that terrible monument to the true European ‘values’, that in fact was a graveyard of human rights.
“We will not only never forget, but also never forgive. With the terrible memory of Moria in our hearts we will continue the struggle against racism, patriarchy, classicism and for freedom of movement for all.
“For a world free of Moria’s, borders, politicians and cops.”