Rescue boats return to Mediterranean after 2-month pause

Rome, June 10 (efe-epa).- Humanitarian boats that patrol the central Mediterranean to rescue migrants have returned to the sea after a two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, NGOs announced Wednesday.

German NGO ship Sea Watch and the Italian Mare Jonio Mediterranea vessel are already in Mediterranean waters and patrolling with aerial assistance from Sea Watch’s Moonlight mission.

Mare Jonio undocked Tuesday night from the port of Trapani, in Sicily, for what will be its eighth rescue mission, Mediterranea said in a statement.

“The Mare Jonio is going back where it belongs, where help and humanity are needed. The crew onboard knows that it can count on the support of the many ground crews, both in Italy and worldwide, which support its mission.

“Fair winds and following sea, Mare Jonio!”

The NGO added it would continue to save the lives of people that have been: “displaced by war and torture victims, individuals fleeing across the Mediterranean are either left to die alone in silence or brought back to be tortured in Libyan detention camps, with the help and the coordination of European governments.”

Due to a strict lockdown and social distancing rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Italy, the crew has shrunk and the ship is equipped for a potential quarantine in the event of rescues.

Sea Watch 3, which patrols the Libyan 24 nautical mile zone and actively searches for boats in distress, has also been at sea since 5 June.

“In recent months, the Mediterranean has been a desert of humanity in which terrible violations have occurred. Now we return to enforce international conventions and the Constitution that governments violate,” Giorgia Linardi, Italy spokesperson for the NGO, said.

“European institutions have shown that they do not want to manage the phenomenon of migration. There have been countless cases of omission of aid, delays in the provision of assistance and even illegal rejections that would be considered international crimes,” the legal expert continued.

The arrival of migrants has continued incessantly during recent months but they have been met by closed borders and ports as a result of measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Italy repurposed a passenger ferry so that those arriving at Lampedusa and Agrigento, on the Italian coast, could quarantine aboard. The Moby Zaza still has some 100 migrants at Porto Empedocle, Sicily.

A few days ago, Bilel Men Masoud, a 22-year-old Tunisian boy, drowned after throwing himself overboard, something the NGOs described as the first victim of the illogical measures taken by the Italian government.

The Sea Watch crew have undergone the mandatory quarantine required by Italian law and in recent days Covid-19 tests were carried out.

“We have prepared ourselves in recent months by developing specific health and safety procedures for Covid, taking into account the national guidelines of our flag state Germany and international ones,” Linardi said.

Special personal protective equipment has been deployed and daily, strict disinfection procedures have been stepped up onboard.

Rescued migrants will have their temperatures taken and an area has been established to isolate people with Covid-19 symptoms, the spokesperson added. EFE-EPA


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