Italy: Ocean Viking and Geo Barents forced to disembark survivors in very distant ports

It will take more than three days of navigation for the two humanitarian ships to reach Ancona, the “safe port” assigned by Italy and disembark the 37 migrants rescued on Saturday by the Ocean Viking and the 73 survivors of the Geo Barents. The Italian government remains deaf to requests for the allocation of ports closer to the rescue zones.

“Two rescue ships will be missing in the Mediterranean,” said Virginia Mielgo, MSF coordinator on board the Geo Barents, in a video. Italy refused to assign this humanitarian ship, Sunday, January 8, a “safe port” on the southern coast of the peninsula, the area closest to the place where the crew rescued 73 migrants the day before.

Similarly, the Ocean Viking of SOS MĂ©diterranĂ©e, was also assigned a “safe port” far from its rescue zone, after having rescued 37 people on a dinghy adrift off Libya, a few hours before. Geo Barents. The crew will therefore have to disembark the survivors in Ancona, the port assigned to it by Italy, located in the north of the country.

After these two rescue operations, Ocean Viking and Geo Barents find themselves trapped by the new italian law imposing on humanitarian boats to disembark the migrants on board as soon as a rescue is carried out, without waiting in the maritime search area, as is often the case, for another possible alert to arise. And in these two cases, the Italian authorities imposed on these humanitarian ships to go to a port very far from the rescue zones.

“The Interior Ministry has rejected our request for a closer safe port for the disembarkation of the 73 survivors aboard the Geo Barents. The ship is heading north,” MSF head of mission Juan Matias Gil. The Geo Barents was also awarded the port of Ancona.

Deterioration of weather conditions

However, this city located in northern Italy is 3.5 days of navigation, while Catania, in Sicily, is only 1.5 days from the position of the humanitarian ship, underlined the NGO who was worried about the distance to be covered, in particular because of an announced deterioration in weather and sea conditions from Monday.

SOS MĂ©diterranĂ©e, whose humanitarian ship Ocean Viking has also set off for Ancona, shares the same fears. The NGO deplored that this port “is 1,575 km from the area of ​​operation, or four days of navigation”. The organization says it is worried about the physical and mental state of the survivors, while “the weather forecast is deteriorating from Sunday evening”, exposing them to “strong winds and rough seas”.

Some of the survivors on board the Ocean Viking are already suffering from “poisoning and fuel burns”, suffered on board the dinghy where they were crammed before being rescued. Among the 37 rescued migrants, two are women and 12 are unaccompanied minors.

Among the 73 survivors on board the Geo Barents there are also 16 unaccompanied minors.

No transfer of migrants from one boat to another

The idea of ​​a transfer of migrants from one boat to another, which would have allowed one of the two humanitarian ships to return to the central Mediterranean in the event of a migrant boat being in distress, was also rejected. , said Virginia Mielgo in a video on Twitter.

In the Mediterranean, it is very common for humanitarian ships to carry out several rescues, sometimes carrying hundreds of migrants on board.

Since her appointment in October as President of the Italian Council, the leader of the far-right Fratelli d’Italia party, Giorgia Meloni, and her government have adopted a harsh policy towards NGOs rescuing migrants at sea. accuse them of making the bed of smugglers and traffickers or of encouraging migrants to attempt the crossing, which the associations contest. The latest measures adopted by this government aim to limit the rescue activities of these humanitarian ships in the Mediterranean.

The editorial staff would like to remind you that humanitarian ships criss-cross a very limited part of the Mediterranean Sea. The presence of these NGOs is far from being a guarantee of relief for migrants who want to attempt the crossing from the African coast. Many boats go unnoticed in the vastness of the sea. Many canoes also sink undetected. The central Mediterranean remains today the deadliest maritime route in the world.

Italy: Ocean Viking and Geo Barents forced to disembark survivors in very distant ports