Italy silent as ships with 1,000 rescued migrants seek help

Nov 3, 2022, 8:25 AM | Updated: 10:33 am
Part of the some 572 survivors rescued by the NGO Geo Barents rescue ship are packed on the deck of...

Part of the some 572 survivors rescued by the NGO Geo Barents rescue ship are packed on the deck of the ship cruising in the Mediterranean Sea, in this picture taken Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (Candida Lobes via AP)

(Candida Lobes via AP)

ABOARD THE GEO BARENTS (AP) — Humanitarian groups caring for nearly 1,000 rescued migrants on three ships in the central Mediterranean are sounding an alarm about deteriorating conditions, but Italy’s new far-right-led government has not responded to requests for a safe portas it hardens its position against rescue boats.

The country’s new interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, has set the groundwork to ban humanitarian ships from Italian ports while appealing to countries whose flags the rescue ships fly to relieve the burden on Italy by accepting the rescued passengers.

The moves are reminiscent of the anti-NGO posture taken by League party leader Matteo Salvini, now the deputy premier, who prevented humanitarian ships from accessing Italy’s ports when he was interior minister from 2018-19.

So far, Italy, along with Malta, have remained silent in response to requests for a safe port from the three ships: the Doctors without Borders-operated Geo Barents, which has 572 people on board; SOS Mediteranee’s Ocean Viking, with 234 people on board, and the SOS Humanity’s Humanity 1 with 179. All were rescued over a weeklong period beginning Oct. 22.

While Italy is de facto blocking the humanitarian ships from disembarking the 1,000 people, Interior Ministry figures indicate that Italian authorities brought 6,383 others to the country’s shores over the last week.

Migrant arrivals by sea to Italy have risen this year, to 85,991 so far compared with 53,825 in the same period last year. The number is still well below the peak arrivals during 2014-2016.

The crew of the Geo Barents is struggling to accommodate the migrants picked up in seven operations starting Oct. 22. They include more than 60 unaccompanied minors, yet more families with children and pregnant woman, as well as the elderly. Many are sleeping on the floors, and supplies were running low.

“We are here on board with 572 people, some of them have been with us already for 6 days,” said Caroline Willemen, MSF Coordinator on the Geo Barents. “As you can see, the situation here on the deck is extremely overcrowded. People do not have space to move. The MSF team we are doing everything we can to take care of them.

“It is absolutely necessary that they can disembark as soon as possible in a place of safety,” she said.

The rescued migrants were struggling with the crowded conditions and the uncertainty.

“We don’t have enough space to sleep. We are sleeping down on the floor and it’s very cold at morning and at night,” said Khaled Mahmoud Mansour, a Palestinian. “Actually the situation is becoming day after day more difficult.”

After failing to get a response from either Italy or Malta, SOS Mediteranee also issued requests for safe ports to Greece, Spain and France. “The 234 rescued people on board must be disembarked urgently,” the group said. “The current blockade at sea of 985 persons is illegal and inhuman.”

The maritime rescue group urged EU member nations to come up with a “predictable system of disembarkation to ease the pressure on European coastal states,” saying people rescued at sea “must no longer be traded into political debates.”

European Commission spokeswoman Anitta Hipper said the commission is aware of the 3 ships with around 1,000 people seeking safe disembarkation, but emphasized that it does not coordinate operations at sea or landings.

“Saving lives at sea is a moral duty as well as a legal obligation for member states under international law, independently from circumstances which have led people to the distress at sea,” Hipper told reporters.

Piantedosi signed a directive last week that can be used to once again prevent humanitarian groups to access Italy’s port, and has asked the countries whose flag they are flying to take on the migrants.

“We cannot take on migrants picked up at sea by foreign ships that are systematically operating without any coordination by authorities,” Piantedosi told the Corriere della Sera newspaper this week.

“Since we are taking on 84% of the migrants arriving on our coast, saved by us, we hope that the much ballyhooed European solidarity will be realized,” he said.

Italy and Germany have traded communications regarding the German-flagged Humanity 1 ship but no agreement was reached. The German Foreign Ministry said it asked Italy to help quickly, but did not provide further details.

____

Barry reported from Milan. Lorne Cook in Brussels and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed reporting.

___

Follow all AP stories about global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              Migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea stand onboard of the Ocean Viking rescue ship, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Vincenzo Circosta)
            
              Migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea stand onboard of the Ocean Viking rescue ship, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Vincenzo Circosta)
            
              Migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea stand onboard of the Ocean Viking rescue ship, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Vincenzo Circosta)
            
              Migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea stand onboard of the Ocean Viking rescue ship, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Vincenzo Circosta)
            
              A migrant rescued in the Mediterranean Sea stands onboard of the Ocean Viking rescue ship, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Vincenzo Circosta)
            
              Part of the some 572 survivors rescued by the NGO Geo Barents rescue ship are packed on the deck of the ship cruising in the Mediterranean Sea, in this picture taken Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (Candida Lobes via AP)
            
              Part of the some 572 survivors rescued by the NGO Geo Barents rescue ship are packed on the deck of the ship cruising in the Mediterranean Sea, in this picture taken Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (Candida Lobes via AP)
            
              Part of the some 572 survivors rescued by the NGO Geo Barents rescue ship are packed on the deck of the ship cruising in the Mediterranean Sea, in this picture taken Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (Candida Lobes via AP)
            
              Part of the some 572 survivors rescued by the NGO Geo Barents rescue ship are packed on the deck of the ship cruising in the Mediterranean Sea, in this picture taken Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (Candida Lobes via AP)

AP

FILE - A protester holding flowers is confronted by a policeman during a protest on a street in Sha...
Associated Press

At Shanghai vigil, bold shout for change preceded crackdown

SHANGHAI (AP) — The mourners in Shanghai lit candles and placed flowers. Someone scrawled “Urumqi, 11.24, Rest in Peace” in red on cardboard — referring to the deadly apartment fire in China’s western city of Urumqi that sparked anger over perceptions the country’s strict COVID-19 measures played a role in the disaster. What started as […]
24 hours ago
FILE - A worker rides a rail car at a BNSF rail crossing in Saginaw, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 20...
Associated Press

Rail workers say deal won’t resolve quality-of-life concerns

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — When BNSF railroad conductor Justin Schaaf needed to take time off from work this summer, he had to make a choice: go to the dentist to get a cavity in his molar filled or attend a party for his son’s 7th birthday. He chose his son. “Ultimately I decided to take […]
24 hours ago
FILE - Web designer Lorie Smith is shown in her office on Nov. 7, 2022, in the southwest part of Li...
Associated Press

Both sides see high stakes in gay rights Supreme Court case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is being warned about the potentially dire consequences of a case next week involving a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for same-sex couples. Rule for the designer and the justices will expose not only same-sex couples but also Black people, immigrants, Jews, Muslims and others […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: December 3, gas disaster in Bhopal

Today in History Today is Saturday, Dec. 3, the 337th day of 2022. There are 28 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Dec. 3, 1984, thousands of people died after a cloud of methyl isocyanate gas escaped from a pesticide plant operated by a Union Carbide subsidiary in Bhopal, India. On […]
24 hours ago
FILE - John Duarte, a Republican candidate in California's 13th Congressional District, arrives at ...
Associated Press

GOP’s Duarte takes California Central Valley US House seat

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Republican John Duarte defeated Democrat Adam Gray on Friday in a new California U.S. House district in the Central Valley farm belt that produced the closest congressional contest in the state this year. With virtually all of the ballots counted, Duarte has just over 50% of the vote. Gray conceded in […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Family seeks answers after police kill man on his own porch

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The family of an Austin, Texas, man is seeking answers after he was fatally shot by police last month on his front porch following a late-night emergency call by a neighbor. Video and audio released Thursday show Austin police officers arrived Nov. 15, yelled “drop your gun,” then fired at Rajan […]
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Italy silent as ships with 1,000 rescued migrants seek help