As the aid organization Sea-Watch announced, its sea rescue ship was blocked in the port of the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria after it had brought 427 migrants ashore last weekend.
The Berlin association cannot estimate when the “Sea-Watch 3” will be released again, as spokeswoman Mattea Weihe said on request. She spoke of a political action. A blockade in the port lasting weeks or even months is to be feared.
According to Sea-Watch, Italy accuses the NGO of having brought too many refugees and migrants onto the boat during the latest rescue operation. “From the absurd argument that too many people have been saved, it follows that people should rather be left to drown,” the association wrote in a statement.
Sea-Watch is now trying, with the help of its lawyers, to end the arrest quickly. “Shortly before the parliamentary elections, the Italian authorities are stepping up the criminalization of migration and civil sea rescue. They are once again trying to prevent us from enforcing everyone’s right to safety and life with absurd methods,” said Sea Watch board member Johannes Bayer.
Civilian sea rescuers regularly complain that the authorities in Rome often arrest their ships for flimsy reasons. In August, the European Court of Justice announced a ruling according to which this practice must be restricted: states are allowed to check rescue ships in their ports for compliance with safety regulations. For this, however, “reliable indications of a risk to health, safety, working conditions on board or the environment would have to be available”.
Sea rescuers look at Italy election
The sea rescue organizations are looking at the elections in Italy on Sunday with concern. According to the latest polls, the right-wing parties are likely to celebrate a clear victory. They want to take vigorous action against the NGOs. During the election campaign, demands were made for a naval blockade off the African coast and for the reactivation of laws that would ban foreign rescue ships from entering Italian ports.
nob/yy (dpa, kna)