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Rescuers call on France, Spain and Greece for help as Italy continues to deny safety to 985 refugees

Meanwhile, the Rise Above saves 77 more lives in the Mediterranean as Sea-Watch proclaims new ship a ‘strong symbol against fascism’

RESCUERS called on the maritime authorities in France, Spain and Greece for help today as Italy and Malta continued to refuse to deny safety to 985 people on three NGO ships off their coasts.

Between October 22 and 29, the Ocean Viking, the Humanity 1, and the Geo Barents saved the lives of 234, 180 and 572 people respectively from unseaworthy boats found in distress in the central Mediterranean.

A child with severe abdominal pain was evacuated from Humanity 1 to Italy on October 28.

All the rescues were carried out in Libya and Malta’s search-and-rescue zones, meaning their authorities have the legal responsibility to ensure the rescued reach a safe port.

However, since both refused to do so, the three ships are now waiting in waters off the coast of the Italian island of Sicily.

But Italy too, with its new far-right government, is refusing to help.

The Ocean Viking’s operators SOS Mediterranee warned today that with the weather and waves worsening, and with provisions beginning to run low, the situation on board the ship is severely deteriorating.

“I urge the French, Spanish and Greek maritime authorities and others … to assist and facilitate an immediate disembarkation in a place of safety,” the Ocean Viking’s search-and-rescue coordinator Nicola Stalla said today.

“This blockade at sea is not only a disgrace, but a blatant violation of international maritime law and humanitarian law.

“The survivors must touch land without further delay. We are facing an absolute emergency, and any additional day of waiting could have life-threatening consequences.”

Riccardo Gatti, the search-and-rescue team leader aboard the Geo Barents, blasted the Maltese authorities today for refusing to provide assistance to the rescued.

“All of the rescues took place in the Maltese search-and-rescue region,” Gatti said.

“Despite timely informing the responsible authorities and repeatedly requesting coordination from Maltese authorities, all our requests were unanswered.

“The coastal states’ inaction, specifically Malta’s, is blatant, as this country is voluntarily failing to arrange or provide a place of safety to disembark.

On the Humanity 1, the ship’s doctor Silvia said in a video message that some of the rescued are suffering from fevers, skin problems and psychological stress.

“I am very worried about their conditions,” she said.

“I am worried [about] the weather forecast, and I think that [having to] share a small space between the adults and unaccompanied minors could worsen their conditions a lot in the next few days.

“I am here to ask for a place of safety. We have already sent 17 requests for a port of safety without any result.”

Meanwhile, at least another 77 people were rescued from two small wooden boats in the central Mediterranean today by the crew of the Rise Above, a smaller vessel operated by Mission Lifeline.

“About half of the people rescued on board our ship are women (including pregnant women), children and babies,” the German organisation said today.

“One of the two boats had already been at sea for two days.”

And in Hamburg today, fellow refugee rescuers Sea-Watch christened a new ship, the Sea-Watch 5.

Sea-Watch spokesperson Mattea Weihe said the new vessel was “a strong symbol against fascism and an even stronger symbol of the right to life. Because no human being should drown while fleeing across the Mediterranean.”

Top image shows kids playing aboard the Ocean Viking [Pic: Camille Martin Juan / SOS Mediterranee]

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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