The detention of ships that rescued hundreds of migrants and refugees in June is politically motivated, medical charity says.
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has urged Italian authorities to release one of their lifeboats, saying the detention was politically motivated.
MSF’s research ship, Geo Barents, was placed in administrative detention on July 2 following an inspection in the Sicilian port of Augusta that identified 22 “deficiencies,” the charity said in a statement Sunday.
The Italian coast guard said 10 reported problems had justified keeping the ship because they risked the safety of the crew and all passengers.
The ship, they noted, had only rescue equipment for 83 people.
Earlier, the ship had rescued more than 400 people, including dozens of children unaccompanied by fragile boats in back-to-back operations during the month of June, an MSF spokesman told Reuters.
Many were from conflict-ridden countries such as Syria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Mali.
MSF said it was willing to respect the authority’s needs and make all “necessary adjustments”, but warned that inspections on its building could “represent an opportunity for the authorities to prosecute”. policy objectives under the control of administrative procedures ”.
The charity described the Coast Guard’s claims regarding security as a “misinterpretation of maritime law”.
MSF has highlighted that Italian authorities have arrested NGO ships on 13 occasions since 2019.
Four have been currently detained, “leaving almost no security activities in the central Mediterranean,” MSF said.
The UN report blames the EU
Thousands of migrants and refugees embark each year on the crossing, often departing in small inflatable boats from Libya in hopes of arriving in Europe.
So far this year, 866 deaths have been recorded in the Mediterranean, according to the United Nations agency for migration. Most of them, 723, died on the central Mediterranean route where the MSF ship operated.
A May UN report said the European Union and its 27 member states were partly to blame for the casualties because they had played a role in blocking humanitarian rescue aid.
While the EU has cut off its own official search and rescue operations, governments have prevented humanitarian agencies from rescuing people in distress by attacking their ships, which have been patrolling for several years in the central Mediterranean, and directing them. ‘individuals with administrative and criminal proceedings, the report said. .
The Italian coast guard said on Saturday that, since the beginning of 2021, it had inspected 681 foreign-flagged ships of various types calling at Italian ports, and 55 had been subjected to administrative detention.
The lifeboat Open Arms, operated by a Spanish charity, was released late last month after more than two months in Sicily.
“Inspections of NGO ships in Italian ports are long and thorough, which seeks to find irregularities to prevent the ship from returning to sea to save lives,” said Duccio Staderini, a search and rescue representative of MSF.
“We are facing an overwhelming reality: while the ships of humanitarian NGOs are detained, life continues to be wasted in the Mediterranean.”