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Judge orders Italian state to pay for repairs to the Iuventa rescue ship

Meanwhile, European authorities continue to ignore the rights of hundreds of refugees still at sea even after a child is born aboard a rescue ship

A JUDGE has ordered the Italian state to pay for repairs to a refugee rescue ship that was left to rust in port after it was seized in 2017.

The order is the latest twist in the controversial trail of refugee rescuers who saved over 14,000 lives in the Mediterranean between August 2016 to August 2017 aboard the Iuventa.

The Italian secret services began spying on the ship’s crew in September 2016, based on allegations from a security guard aboard another NGO ship who had links with Italian far-right politician Matteo Salvini – who was then Italy’s interior minister.

The Italian authorities snatched the ship in August 2017 in Lampedusa, and said that several members of the crew had been placed under investigation, but didn’t clarify who was under investigation or why.

It wasn’t until March 2021 that charges were brought against three members of the Iuventa and 21 other individuals from Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Jugend Rettet, a German organisation that worked closely with the Iuventa.

The pre-trial hearings only went ahead in May this year.

If found guilty of “aiding and abetting irregular entry,” the lifesavers could face up to 20 years in jail.

The Iuventa [Pic: Selene Magnolia – selenemagnolia.com]

During that time, the Iuventa ship has been abandoned in the port of Trapani.

The ship, the crew said this morning, “has been plundered,” is “currently unseaworthy and in danger of sinking.”

Judge Samuele Corso ruled on Thursday that that extensive maintenance work must be carried out on the ship to restore it to the condition it was in before its seizure.

“I find it somewhat cynical that this decision is being made after what was once a rescue ship is now only a pile of rubble,” one of the defendants Kathrin Schmidt said today.

“However, it holds an important message in light of the arbitrary treatment and measures against civil search and rescue operations.”

Dariush Beigui, another of the defendants, said that though the ruling was a step in the right direction, it could not be considered a victory.

“How could it be, in view of the daily tragedy at Europe’s borders?,” he said.

“A victory can only be the recognition that supporting people on the move can never be a crime, nor can the will to survive and seek justice.”

Yesterday’s ruling if far from the first setback in the pre-trail, which has not progressed beyond the first procedural stages.

The case has been put on hold on several occasions due to the prosecutor’s office failing to allow all the defendants to participate in the trial, such as not providing adequate interpretation in court and not translating files into the defendants’ native languages.


Meanwhile, it has been a dramatic couple of days for three rescue ships in the central Mediterranean since The Civil Fleet last reported on them.

Baby ‘Ali’ was born aboard the Geo Barents on December 7, 2022 [Pic: MSF]

A child was born aboard the Geo Barents rescue ship on Wednesday morning.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which operates the ships, said the following on social media that day: “Since this morning, survivors aboard Geo Barents are not 254 anymore, but 255.

“At 11:31am, Fatima [not her real name] gave birth to little Ali [ditto]. She was rescued in the morning of Tuesday, December 6, from an unstable rubber boat travelling with 90 people on board, among whom her other three children

“Fatima had fled Libya with her three sons. In her condition, already in labour, she faced the harrowing crossing on a packed and unstable boat, fearing for her children travelling with her. Once on the Geo Barents, the medical team immediately took care of them.

“The difficult journey, the harsh conditions, the extreme stress and the deep dehydration triggered Fatima’s labour, which started at around 4am on December 7.

“After seven hours, Ali was born in the Geo Barents’ medical clinic. Despite the joyful event, her condition is now critical, and she needs immediate specialised medical care.”

MSF confirmed later in the evening that Fatima, her four children, and others in need of urgent medical care had been evacuated to Lampedusa.

A 14-year-old boy with acute abdominal pain was evacuated from the ship earlier today.

At 4pm this afternoon, MSF announced that the Italian authorities had finally provided them with a port in Salerno, southern Italy, where they will disembark the remaining 248 survivors aboard the Geo Barents.

“This is more than 24 hours from the current location of the ship with bad sea conditions,” MSF said.

“This is a relief for the children, women and men who went through harrowing experiences since leaving their countries of origin. They deserve to disembark in a place of safety and get the necessary care and protection they need.”

Last night, the Louise Michel, which had been working with the larger Humanity 1 ship, disembarked 33 people on the Italian island of Lampedusa, two days after they were rescued.

“We wish them all the best for the future,” the Bansky-fund group said on social media this afternoon.

“And hope they will be better welcomed by civil society than by Europe’s violent border regime.”

The 261 people still aboard the Humanity 1 rescue ship are still without a safe port, days after they were rescued in three operations with the Louise Michel.

On Tuesday, the people on aboard the Humanity 1 and Louise Michel witnessed the EU-supported Libyan Coastguards intercept a refugee boat.

Darius, one of the Humanity 1’s guests and an eyewitness to the pushback, said: “I was detained in Libya. I saw people dying in front of my eyes. We were screaming here on Humanity 1, but we couldn’t do anything.

“At that moment we saw that our brothers were going to suffer again, maybe worse than we suffered before.

“We know what is happening in Libya. It will be a nightmare. They will be punished for it. And the money they are going to pay is going to be horrendous. You can hardly find words for Libya. They are selling people like bread there.”


Top image shows the Iuventa rescue ship rusting away in port [Pic: Selene Magnolia – selenemagnolia.com]

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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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