NGO decries Italian blockade of a Sea-Watch rescue ship as ‘politically-motivated”

Sea-Watch 4 Rescue Operations
Source: Sea-Watch International

German humanitarian group Sea-Watch blasted the Italian government for blockading a rescue ship with migrants and holding it for 11 hours in the Sicilian port of Palermo as “politically motivated.”

The Sea-Watch 4, headed by Philipp Hahn has called the Italian action’s justification “flimsy”, claiming it is a “systematic move to prevent civil sea rescue operations in the central Mediterranean.”

According to Italian authorities, the ship was blocked because the vessel was not registered to save lives, had too many lifejackets on board, and its sewage facilities were inadequate to handle a large headcount.

Sea-Watch 4 reportedly rescued 354 people, including 98 unaccompanied minors as well as families with children and pregnant women. The ship reportedly was held off-shore for days awaiting a proper port. Also, the ship had to undergo a two week quarantine period.

In the past, the Italian government reportedly blocked Sea-Watch ships carrying large numbers of migrants.

Sea-Watch 4 is headed by four different humanitarian groups, including Doctors Without Borders.

Commenting on the blockade, Doctors Without Borders has said “The Sea-Watch 4 is only at sea because of the absence of state-led search and rescue capacity at the world’s deadliest sea border,” further adding that Europe is “disregarding its legal and moral duty to save lives.”

According to this year’s statistics on migrant activity, 379 people have perished on the journey from Libya across the Mediterranean to Europe, with 111 individuals dying in August alone.

The spat between the Italian government and European NGO’s is far from the first occurrence as the migrant issue continues to be a prevalent political issue throughout the EU with one group arguing Europe lacks the capacity to take migrants in and another arguing it is a humanitarian duty.

Either way, immigration has become one of the biggest political issues of our time.


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