Italy: Rescue ships forced to make longer journeys

The Italian government appears to be using a new tactic against private maritime rescue organizations operating in the Mediterranean. In the past, port allocations were often delayed or ships seized, but now the government wants rescue ships to make longer voyages.

Three private rescue vessels – Life Support, Lift Above and Sea Eye 4 – rescued hundreds of migrants from the waters of the Mediterranean last week. Italian authorities assigned them relatively quick disembarkation ports, but asked them to go to ports in the north and east of the country, making the journey even longer.

“Livor Support” and “Sea-Eye 4” were asked to go to Livorno in the north of the country. Rise Above was tasked to land in Taranto, in southeastern Italy, about 150 kilometers north of Roxella Ionica, where the ship was originally instructed to land.

“We’ve never been to a port this far before,” said Gorden Isler, head of the Sea Eye rescue organization. epd news agency.

“In the central Mediterranean, it’s important to keep lifeboats as far away from the rescue site as possible,” says Isler. He also said the actions violated international law.

SEA-EYE 4 and Life Support arrive in Livorno

The Sea-Eye 4 took five days to travel to Livorno and arrived there on Friday morning (December 23) with 108 refugees in two rescue operations.

Among those rescued from Sea-Eye 4 were several passengers who required immediate medical attention. They were among the first to abandon ship in Livorno. It is reported that three people who were burned on the boat due to the gasoline spill were immediately taken to the hospital from the boat.

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“Over the past few days, the medical team on board provided first aid to all 108 people who were rescued from the disaster at sea. 20 refugees received moderate to severe burns from the spilled gasoline. Three extremely serious cases had to be taken directly from the ship. They are in the hospital. All the rescued people I am happy to be on dry land and safe,” said Noor Khanna, a spokeswoman for the German doctors.

Emergency in Livorno, Italy on December 22, 2022
On December 22, 2022, an emergency Life Support ship landed in Livorno, Italy. The ship departed Genoa on December 13 for its first mission, heading for the central Mediterranean | Photo: Photo Credit/Photoshot/Enrico Mattia Del Punta/NurPhoto

Long way to Livorno

A Life Support ship operated by the Italian Emergency organization brought 142 people to Livorno, where they arrived on Thursday morning (December 22). The crew brought refugees aboard Sunday and Monday in three rescue operations, including children and 26 unaccompanied minors. The vessel, which can hold up to 175 people, began its first rescue mission last week.

Medical personnel immediately attended and provided assistance before the passengers were transferred to different regions of Italy. Local Maritime and Border Health Officers who screened passengers were briefed by medical staff on Life Support Operations.

Among those on board the Life Support were 26 unaccompanied children aged 13-17.  Photo: Enrico Mattia Del Punta/NurPhoto
Among those on board the Life Support were 26 unaccompanied children aged 13-17. Photo: Enrico Mattia Del Punta/NurPhoto

There were no cases of COVID-19 and three passengers were hospitalized

Medical staff worked with police and state officials to help disembark, identify and distribute migrants at the port. The Tuscan civil defense has been working to organize procedures since the evening before the arrival of the migrants. The first 50 passengers on the Life Support plane, who were attended to by doctors, were in good condition “despite the exhaustion of the sea voyage,” said Paolo Paolini, head of remote rescue operations at the Tuscan regional health service. . Among the port’s medical professionals, specialists from Florence’s Meyer Children’s Hospital treated babies as young as seven months old, including minors.

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Emergency on December 22, 2022 in Livorno, Italy
On December 22, 2022, in Livorno, Italy, the emergency ship “Life Support” embarked. There were 142 migrants on board, including five women, including one who was seven months pregnant, and two children under the age of two with their mothers. | Photo: Enrico Mattia Del Punta/NurPhoto

So far, none of the 50 patients tested have tested positive for COVID-19, Paolini said. Monia Monni, adviser to the Tuscan Civil Protection, noted that the condition of the plane was relatively good, given the long journey and the choice of the port of Livorno as a safe port, which “extended this suffering by several days”.

The passengers were five women with two children under the age of two, one boy and one girl. Monni said these passengers, including a seven-month pregnant woman, will be treated separately by doctors.

The recent arrivals will go to different regions of Italy

LAUNCH Local authorities note the difficulty of finding housing for minors and will allocate them to appropriate facilities throughout the region, the report said. Thanks to direct communication with the region and a network of volunteers and NGOs, the local prefect plans to host special facilities and other people.

Emergency in Livorno, Italy on December 22, 2022
On December 22, 2022, an emergency Life Support ship landed in Livorno, Italy. 142 migrants on board were rescued by the NGO at sea and came from “Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Eritrea, Guinea, Mali”, Pakistan and Somalia. | Photo: Enrico Mattia Del Punta/NurPhoto

Luca Salvetti, mayor of Livorno, said the final destination of some passengers had changed from the original plan. 142 refugees will go to the Marche, Molise and Abruzzo regions instead of Lombardy and Emilia Romagna, with Liguria still one of the chosen destinations. Salvetti added that he was struck by the “nice human interaction between the migrants and the emergency volunteers”.

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“They couldn’t hug each other to say goodbye, so the passengers were thanking them for saving their lives,” he said.

Deliberately modified

In a statement, Isler, head of the Sea Eye rescue organization, criticized the actions of the Italian authorities. “There are many indications that this is a new strategy by the Italian authorities to keep the ports as fast and as far away as possible, an attempt to keep the rescue ships out of the operational area as quickly and as long as possible,” he said.

Isler said the strategy “is changing, but the goal of the authorities remains the same: to reduce the number of people coming to Europe and make it harder to rescue people.”

Every year, tens of thousands of migrants and refugees try to cross the Central Mediterranean Sea from North Africa to Italy by dangerous boats. In 2022 alone, more than 2,000 refugees and migrants have died and disappeared on this road. However, many shipwrecks were never recorded, so the actual death toll is believed to be much higher.

With ANSA and epd

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