Dozens of people rescued at sea allowed to leave ship in Italy after stand-off

Dozens Of People Rescued At Sea Allowed To Leave Ship In Italy After Stand-Off Dozens Of People Rescued At Sea Allowed To Leave Ship In Italy After Stand-Off
Italy Migration, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Dozens of people who were rescued at sea have disembarked from a German humanitarian group’s ship in southern Italy, ending one migrant rescue saga as three others continued under Italy’s new hard-right government.

Mission Lifeline posted videos on social media of the Rise Above docking in Reggio Calabria and said the “odyssey of 89 passengers and nine crew members on board seems to be over”.

In a subsequent statement, it said the passengers represented all of the remaining rescued people the ship was carrying.

The group had waited at sea for days for Italy to assign the 80ft freighter a port after it entered Italian waters over the weekend without consent because of rough seas. Six of the original 95 rescued people on board were evacuated at sea for medical reasons.


Women and children were among those to leave the ship (Valeria Ferraro/AP)

The new far-right-led government of Premier Giorgia Meloni has taken a hard line with non-governmental organizations operating private migrant rescue ships in the central Mediterranean Sea. It has instructed the ships to ports and allowed only passengers considered vulnerable to get off.

Italian authorities insist the boats must then return to international waters with the remaining migrants so the countries whose flag the ships fly will take them in.

Mission Lifeline spokeswoman Hermine Poschmann said she did not know why the Rise Above was allowed to disembark all its remaining passengers, which three other humanitarian ships are currently unable to do.

The group quoted Italian news reports as saying the Italian government had determined the Rise Above was a “distress case at sea” but Ms Poschmann said at no time did the group ever declare an emergency or mayday.

Italy’s interior minister Matteo Piantedosi laid the groundwork to close Italian ports to humanitarian rescue ships by drafting measures contending that the aid groups were violating procedures by not properly coordinating their rescues.

Ms Poschmann said Mission Lifeline followed the same search and rescue procedures as the other ships.

Two NGO-run boats are docked in Catania, in Sicily, one with 35 people whom Italy will not allow to get off, the other with 214 people.


Migrants show placards demanding the disembarkation of all those on the Norway-flagged Geo Barents rescue ship (Massimo Di Nonno/AP)

The captains of both ships have refused to leave, saying that under international law all people rescued at sea are vulnerable and entitled to a safe port.

German NGO SOS Humanity on Tuesday confirmed that the 35 people remaining on board the Humanity 1 have submitted fast-track political asylum requests through a court in Catania. It said the condition of the people was deteriorating every day, with some refusing proper meals and growing more distressed.

In desperation, two Syrian men jumped into the sea from one of the ships, the Geo Berents, on Monday, and a third went in afterwards to try to save them, said Doctors Without Borders, which operates the ship. One of the men was taken from the ship by ambulance on Tuesday after getting a fever.

The charity said that the man, identified only as Ahmed, had fled Syria a year ago for Libya, and that he had been subject to abuse and violence in a Libyan prison, where he landed after his first attempt at a crossing was intercepted by the Libyan coastguard.

“He told us that since then he has suffered strong pains in his back due to the violence he suffered,” said Maurizio Debanne, a spokesperson for the aid group.

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