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Over 500 refugees in the Mediterranean wait on European authorities to provide them with safety

Meanwhile, the pretrial against the Iuventa rescue workers is put on hold due to Italian prosecution’s procedural errors

OVER 500 refugees are waiting on the European authorities to provide them with a safe port after activist rescuers saved their lives in the central Mediterranean.

The Aita Mari, a rescue ship belonging to Basque charity Humanitarian Maritime Rescue (SMH), is carrying the 68 people her crew has rescued in three operations since Tuesday.

SMH chairman Iñigo Mijangos told The Civil Fleet this afternoon that the ship is currently 20 to 30 nautical miles away from the Italian island of Lampedusa.

“The crew has asked Malta and Italy to provide us with a port of safety,” Mr Mijangos said, “but both are refusing to answer and denying safety to the rescued.”

“We have requested that Spain, as our flag state, coordinates the disembarkation in the nearest port of safety. We are awaiting their instructions.”

The Aita Mari returned to the central Mediterranean search-and-rescue (SAR) zone this week. On Tuesday, the crew picked up 11 people in distress after they were alerted to their position by the activist-run distress hotline network Alarm Phone.

“The rescued told us that there had been more departures from Libya, so it is likely that in the next few hours there may be new warnings,” SMH said on Tuesday.

“The good state of the sea usually favours the departure of migrants fleeing Libya. We will continue surveillance and rescue work in the area.”

They were right.

On Tuesday night, the ship received an email about another boat in distress near their position.

“We headed towards the case. We were just four nautical miles away when the Libyan coastguard reached the boat before us,” Mr Mijangos told The Civil Fleet.

“Some refugees jumped into the water and the Libyan coastguard just left the area without assisting them.

“We picked up 17 people, some of them were minors. One of them was in a serious health condition.

“We decided to leave the area and head north at maximum speed to facilitate a medical evacuation if needed.”

Then at midnight, as they sped toward Lampedusa, the crew discovered another boat; this one carrying 40 people. Though the rescue was carried out inside Malta’s SAR zone, the island nation did not assist.

Meanwhile, another rescue ship in the central Mediterranean has also made urgent calls to the European authorities for a port of safety.

The Sea-Eye 4, a rescue ship operated by German NGO Sea-Eye, is currently carrying 492 shipwreck survivors, including dozens of children, after carrying out four operations yesterday.

Her crew’s most recent rescue occurred late last night in the pitch black of night.

“When our fast rescue boats arrived,” Sea-Eye explained on social media today, “the crew saw a dramatic scene in the dark.

“There was hardly any air left in the [rubber] boat’s tubes. It had to be evacuated immediately. The difficult rescue operation, in which 76 people were saved from drowning, lasted until midnight.

“EU member states just accept that people drown, it’s part of their policy.”

Elsewhere, the trial against four former members of the Iuventa refugee rescue ship has been temporarily suspended, the crew announced today.

The judge at a pretrial hearing into the case on Wednesday put a hold on proceedings because of procedural errors caused by the prosecution.

“The prosecution failed to provide crucial information about the trial to all defendants,” the activists said. “This is not only sloppy work… but a clear violation of fair trial standards!”

The Iuventa crew saved the lives of over 14,000 refugees in the Mediterranean Sea between August 2016 to 2017. But their missions came to an abrupt end when the Italian authorities seized the ship following a controversial investigation led by the secret services.

Kathrin Schmidt, Dariush Beigui, Sascha Girke and Uli Tröder, stand accused of facilitating illegal entry into the country. They face 20 years behind bars if the court finds them guilty.

The delay is both good and bad, the four said in a statement posted on social media today.

“Of course it’s right that these errors are not ignored. But it also means we have to wait months again for our trial to resume — because the prosecution failed to do its job properly after five years of investigation.

“Justice delayed is justice denied! Most importantly, the criminalisation of migration remains unchanged.

“We are angry, and we will continue to fight, in the courtroom and on the water! Freedom of movement is a right, not a crime!”

Top image shows the Sea-Eye 4’s crew approaching a deflating rubber boat in the central Mediterranean last night [Pic: Camilla Kranzusch/Sea-Eye]

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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