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Greek coastguard’s intentions called into question after it orders human rights monitoring ship to go back to port

Meanwhile, in the central Med, Sea-Watch 3 allowed to come ashore, but Aita Mari is kept waiting

THE Greek coastguard’s intentions were called into question today after it ordered an NGO ship to sail back to port for supposedly “posing a danger” to its operations — despite not ordering the other vessels in the area to do so.

The Mare Liberum, an activist-run ship monitoring refugees’ human rights off the coast of Lesbos since 2018, returned to the Aegean Sea yesterday having spent close to two years in port — thanks to meddling by the German and Greek governments.

Last night as the ship reached what was previously its usual monitoring spot at Lamna Reef, off the north coast of the island, a Hellenic Coastguard vessel ordered them to leave, claiming they were posing a danger to the Greek authorities’ operations in the area.

Later, while embarking on the six-hour journey back to port, the crew received an email from the coastguard, saying: “Return to your original anchorage port of Skala Loutron, keeping a safe course close to the coast until you clarify in written form the reasons for operating in areas under our jurisdiction.”

Mare Liberum said today that they did not receive an order prohibiting them from sailing north of Lesbos before they left, nor an explanation as to why they were told to leave.

“There is no Navtext (an automated messaging service to ships) on sailing restrictions in the area,” the NGO said.

“In fact, there are many fishing vessels are anchoring and drifting around Lamna Reef. Yet, it seems the Mare Liberum was the only vessel that was ordered to leave.”

According to the Mare Liberum’s research, close to 20,000 people have been violently forced back across the sea from Greece to Turkey.

Mare Liberum crew member Marie said: “If we are not allowed to sail in the Aegean Sea, the only actors remaining present are the perpetrators of human rights violations and border crimes: The Hellenic coastguard, Frontex and Nato.”

Meanwhile, in the central Mediterranean, the 406 refugees aboard the Sea-Watch 3 rescue ship have finally been given a port.

The Sea-Watch 3 saved the lives of 412 people in less than 48 hours last Sunday and Monday off the coast of Libya.

The crew’s subsequent requests for a safe place to disembark the rescued fell on deaf ears, even as six people were evacuated from the ship in the following days due to medical emergencies.

“After days of waiting, the Italian authorities have assigned us Pozzallo as port for disembarkation,” Sea-Watch said today.

“We are happy that our 406 guests will soon be able to go ashore. Nevertheless, these delays of disembarkation must stop! People rescued from distress at sea have the right to be taken to a place of safety immediately, which can only be in Europe.”

However, the Aita Mari is still without anywhere to go after saving 105 people in Malta’s search-and-rescue (SAR) zone on Tuesday.

“EU, Malta, Italy, you are not complying with international [human rights] laws,” the ship’s operators Humanitarian Maritime Rescue (SMH) said today.

“A story is being written that our grandchildren will one day read at school in shame.”

UPDATE: 5.17pm

Doctors Without Borders’ (MSF) ship, the Geo Barents, rescued 36 people from a wooden boat in international waters today.

Top image shows the Mare Liberum’s crew in action in a RHIB boat [Zita Erffa / Mare Liberum]

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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