The arrest of a ship that rescued hundreds of immigrants and refugees in June has political motivation, according to a medical charity.
Doctors Without Borders, a medical charity (MSF), has urged Italian authorities to release one of its rescue boats, alleging that the arrest was politically motivated.
MSF research vessel Geo Barents was administratively arrested on July 2 after an inspection in the Sicilian port of Augusta that identified 22 “deficiencies,” a statement said in a statement on Sunday.
The Italian Coast Guard said ten reported problems had justified the detention of the ship because it endangered the safety of the crew and passengers.
The ship, they noted, only had rescue equipment for 83 people.
Earlier, the ship had rescued more than 400 people, including dozens of children unaccompanied by weak ships in consecutive operations during June, an MSF spokesman told Reuters.
Many were from conflicting countries, such as Syria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Mali.
MSF said it was willing to meet the authorities’ requirements and make all “necessary adjustments”, but warned that inspections on its ship could “represent an opportunity for authorities to pursue political goals under the guise of procedures”. administrative “.
The charity described the Coast Guard’s claims about safety as a “misinterpretation of maritime law.”
MSF noted that Italian authorities had detained NGO ships on 13 occasions since 2019.
Currently, four were detained, “almost without leaving rescue activities in the central Mediterranean Sea,” MSF said.
The UN report blames the EU
Thousands of migrants and refugees embark on the voyage each year, often leaving in small inflatable boats from Libya in hopes of reaching Europe.
So far this year, 866 deaths have been reported in the Mediterranean, according to the United Nations Migration Agency. Most, 723, died on the Central Mediterranean route where the MSF operated.
A UN report in May said the European Union and its 27 member states were partly to blame for the fatalities because they had been involved in blocking humanitarian rescue efforts.
Although the EU has reduced its own official search and rescue operations, governments have prevented humanitarian agencies from rescuing distressed people by seizing their ships, which have patrolled the central Mediterranean for years and gone to people with administrative and criminal proceedings, according to the report. .
The Italian coastguard said on Saturday that since early 2021 it had inspected 681 ships of different types with a foreign flag calling at Italian ports and 55 were under administrative detention.
The Open Arms rescue boat, led by a Spanish charity, was released late last month after more than two months held in Sicily.
“Inspections of NGO ships in Italian ports are long and exhaustive, with the aim of finding irregularities to prevent the ship from returning to the sea to save lives,” said Duccio Staderini, MSF’s search and rescue representative.
“We are faced with a crushing reality: while humanitarian NGO ships stop, lives continue to be lost unnecessarily in the Mediterranean.”