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Italy and Malta refuse to allow 475 rescued people to come ashore

Prominent human rights lawyers demand ICC investigate possible crimes against humanity in Libya and warn of EU’s role in the crisis

BOTH Italy and Malta are refusing to allow 475 people, including many pregnant women and children, who would have drowned in the Mediterranean were it not for NGO rescuers, to reach dry land.

The crew of the Sea-Watch 4 rescue ship has called on the Italian and Maltese authorities to carry out their legal duties and provide the rescued with a place to disembark.

“We have asked for a port of safety multiple times,” Sea-Watch spokeswoman Mattea Weihe told The Civil Fleet this afternoon.

“We’ve asked six times already, and twice Italy has denied our requests and Malta hasn’t even responded yet,” she said.

“We are currently trying to make sure that we get a port of safety as quickly as possible, and are just waiting for the authorities to allocate us one.

“475 people is a lot of people. So we’re hoping that within the next couple of days we’ll be able to disembark them somewhere safe.”

A rescue operation is not considered over until the rescued have reached dry land in a safe port, international maritime laws state.

Sea-Watch, along with all the other activist-led refugee rescuers and support organisations operating in the central Mediterranean — as well as the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) and the EU itself — do not consider Libya a safe place to disembark people that have escaped the country.

Since The Civil Fleet last reported on the Sea-Watch 4 last Friday — when it was threatened by the EU-supported Libyan coastguards — the crew has carried out seven more rescues.

In one operation yesterday, the crew brought on board 107 people, including a one-day-old baby that was likely born aboard the overcrowded wooden boat they were found in.

Sea-Watch’s reconnaissance plane Seabird had spotted and informed the authorities to the boat a day before. But no action was taken.

Fortunately, the Italian authorities did not ignore or refuse to help the crew this time. The child and their mother, as well as five other people in critical condition, were evacuated to dry land by the Italian coastguard.

“We’ve received a message that both the mom and the kid are doing well and that they will be transferred to a reception centre,” Ms Weihe told The Civil Fleet.

“So everybody is quite happy that they seem to be fine.”

A mother looks at her newborn baby aboard the Sea-Watch 4 [Pic: Sea-Watch]

Meanwhile, a group of prominent human rights lawyers told the International Criminal Court (ICC) today that it must investigate possible crimes against humanity committed on migrants and refugees in Libya, and warned that EU’s migration policies have “significantly contributed to this grave situation.”

The complaint was filed by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL), as well as survivors who escaped the country.

The organisations called on the ICC to investigate “the responsibility of armed groups, militias and Libyan state actors involved in the commission of such crimes including arbitrary detention, torture, murder, persecution, sexual violence and enslavement,” a statement by the ECCHR says.

The organisations also published a joint report, which includes first-hand accounts of survivors, and “offers an analysis of the findings on crimes against humanity as presented in the ICC Communication and examines the EU policies designed to prevent migrants and refugees from reaching Europe through Libya.

“It argues: EU policies have trapped migrants and refugees in Libya and thus significantly contribute to this grave situation.”

Top image shows some of the 475 guests aboard the Sea-Watch 4 [Pic: Suzanne de Carrasco / Sea-Watch]

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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