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131 refugee lives saved as further evidence of Mediterranean pushbacks emerge

Meanwhile, in Britain, campaigners launch legal challenge against government’s ‘medieval-style Rwanda banishment’ plans

ACTIVIST rescuers saved a further 131 people in the central Mediterranean today, as more signs of illegal refugee pushbacks were discovered.

The activist-run Ocean Viking rescue ship carried out what it described as a difficult operation in three-metre high waves in the pitch black on Tuesday night.

SOS Mediterranee, the European charity that operates the ship, said this morning that the crew rescued 72 people from a rubber boat in international waters off the Libyan coast.

The ship then saved the lives of 59 more people this morning.

Since The Civil Fleet last reported on the Ocean Viking on Sunday, a further 94 people were brought onboard on Monday, adding to the 70 people saved on Sunday.

The ship is now carrying 295 survivors, 132 of which are unaccompanied children.

SOS Mediterranee shared a heartbreaking story on its social media channels on Monday evening about that day’s rescue.

“15 people on the overcrowded rubber boat fell into the water during the night. Only three made it back, the others likely drowned. 12 people are officially missing.

“Some of the survivors are showing signs of emotional trauma, as they have lost relatives and are cared for by SOS Mediterranee and [the International Federation of the Red Cross].”

“At least 511 people already died in the central Mediterranean in 2022 without counting this additional tragedy.

“Each life lost at sea is one too many.”

Meanwhile, the Geo Barents rescue ship, currently carrying 101 refugees, found another ghost boat on Tuesday.

“This is the third empty boat that came to our attention within the last three days,” the ship’s operators Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, we suspect that people on those boats have been forcibly returned to where they get abused and tortured: Libya.”

Meanwhile, human rights groups launched a legal challenge against the British government’s plans to send people who seek asylum in the country all the way to Rwanda, 6,501 miles (10,462 km) away.

RNLI rescuers bring people they saved in the Channel onto British shores [Pic: Channel Rescue]

The charities Detention Action and Care4Calais, as well as the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, are challenging British Home Secretary Priti Patel’s failure to disclose the criteria dictating which people seeking asylum will be transferred by force to East Africa and which will remain in the UK.

They also contend that the removal of individuals from the UK to Rwanda under the proposed scheme would be unlawful, as the policy penalises asylum seekers on the grounds of their irregular entry — in direct contravention of the Refugee Convention.

“This legal action is brought on behalf of all those who are vulnerable to medieval-style banishment for daring to seek sanctuary in the UK, as well as the wider British public who have every right to know what the Home Secretary wants to do in their name,” Detention Action director Bella Sankey said today.

“We believe that this entire policy is unlawful, both the secrecy surrounding the selection criteria and the whole premise of penalising refugees, by expulsion to Rwanda, for fleeing without papers and permission.

“The rule of law is fundamental to our constitution, and despite this government’s clear disdain for it, we will hold them to account.”

Care4Calais founder Clare Moseley said: “From the suspiciously sparse detail presented so far, it is already clear the plan holds multiple risks and innocent people will be needlessly and cruelly traumatised to score political points.

“A government’s decisions must be transparent, and ministers must be accountable, so that we know what is being done in our name.

“Our recent success in stopping the proposed pushbacks policy only came after the Home Office was compelled to reveal that they knew the plan was unworkable. It is a shame that litigation is required to force the government to do the right thing.”

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said the union was taking this action on behalf of its members in the Home Office who will be expected to implement this policy, and on behalf of the refugees affected by it.

“We want to improve the working environment in which our members operate, including through the development of a humane asylum and immigration system,” Mr Serwotka said.

“PCS members in the Home Office do a difficult job. We have asked the Home Office for details of what precisely they expect our members to do in respect of this policy and the legal basis for it. Nothing has been forthcoming. They are again playing fast and loose with our members’ safety and well-being.”

Top image shows an empty boat discovered by the crew of the Geo Barents in the central Mediterranean [Pic: MSF]

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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