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Rescue NGOs urge Italy to stop blocking ships at sea


Four NGOs involved in rescuing migrants in difficulty at sea issued a statement calling on Italy to stop blocking their ships. The NGOs Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Sea-Watch, Open Arms and Mediterranea have urged the Italian government to stop blocking their rescue ships in the Mediterranean before the National Day of Remembrance for Immigration Victims on October 3.

In a joint statement, they called on the Italian government to stop blocking humanitarian ships and reactivate an EU-wide mechanism to protect life at sea along the central Mediterranean migration route. They noted that the Mediterranean continues to be “one of the greatest cemeteries in the world ” and that, seven years after the deaths of so many off Lampedusa, October 3 has been named in memory of them, even the presence of Italians and European military ships offshore Libya was not helping to reduce the number of migrant deaths at sea.

They pointed out that Frontex and Eunavformed  are aerial reconnaissance flights capable of monitoring all movements on the Libyan coast and had done nothing to change the situation, but had in fact facilitated the illegal pushbacks by proxy.

The NGOs have requested a meeting with the government, while admitting the complexity of the current situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They urged the government to officially recognize the value and obligation of rescuing migrants at sea, ending the blockage of vessels and aircraft from EU civil society organizations, immediate assistance and providing a  ” safe harbor within 24 hours for all vessels in service at sea”, whatever their classification and clear and identical sanitary measures for all, as well as the reactivation of a European mechanism to save lives at sea along the central Mediterranean route.

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