Sea-Watch 3 remains stranded 1.4 miles from port of Syracuse

A week after rescuing 47 migrants from the Mediterranean, the NGO urged authorities to allow those onboard on board to disembark

The Sea-Watch 3 has been carrying a group of 47 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean for a week
The Sea-Watch 3 has been carrying a group of 47 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean for a week

The NGO rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3 remains stranded some 1.4 miles from the port of Syracuse as Italian authorities continue to refuse to allow disembarkation of the ship’s passengers.

In a statement, Sea Watch said that without a safe port for the “exhausted shipwrecked” migrants, the Sea-Watch 3 on Thursday sought shelter to the east of the Sicilian coast.

“Seven days after the rescue of 47 shipwrecked migrants off the Libyan coast, the last remaining rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea now is blocked off the coast of Sicily despite various cities offering a port of safety,” the NGO said.

It said that on Thursday, the mayor of the Italian city of Syracuse, Francesco Italia, declared the city’s port open to the vessel. It said that, collaborating with local civil society, Italia had asked the responsible authorities to allow the entry of the Sea-Watch 3.

Despite this it said that the Italian government, “whose minister of interior is already under investigation for kidnapping, abuse of office and breaking the SAR convention in a similar case, currently prohibits the people from leaving the ship”.

It said that after receiving the invitation form the mayor, the ship’s captain asked for permission to enter the port. “However once in proximity to the port, Sea-Watch got assigned a berth instead of a safe port which could allow the landing of shipwrecked people on board.”

It said the refusal to enter port “was notified without justification” and that the ship remained stuck at anchor without being “able to allow due assistance on land to vulnerable people fleeing Libya and tried by days on the high seas.

Sea Watch said that after hours had passed without receiving any authorization, it “proceeded with a report to the prosecutor in Catania”.

“The prosecutor, as required by law, asks for the immediate disembarkation of the 13 minors on board, emphasizing that in this prolonged condition of discomfort, their rights are evaded,” the German NGO said.

It added that in addition to the minors, the vessel was also carrying 34 other people who had experienced “long periods of arbitrary detention in Libyan prisons in which they have suffered daily torture, abuse, physical and psychological violence”.

After seven days on the ship, to go ahead with the landing of only a part of the shipwrecked people would be traumatic for those who would be forced to remain on board, the NGO said.

Sea-Watch said it was asking for an end to the “odyssey” that the 47 people on board are suffering.

"This could have been a bright day for European solidarity after a very dark week: At least 170 people had gone missing – unverified reports from Libya speak of many more. Another 250 had been forcefully returned by the EU-funded, so-called Libyan Coast-Guard and two merchant vessels, violating the Geneva Refugee Convention.", said Johannes Bayer, Chairman of Sea-Watch about the invitation to Siracusa.

"We are grateful to the city Siracusa and its people for this great sign of solidarity. Similarly, our thanks go to Palermo, Naples, Barcelona, Berlin, and all the other cities who joined the ranks of open ports and solidarity cities. This is the Europe we want to live in, a Europe of Solidarity.

"Yet, apparently human rights in Europe only apply to people under 18 years of age these days," Bayer said referring to the suggestion of a partial disembarkation of the 13 unaccompanied minors.

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