German aid group: 89 migrants allowed to disembark in Italy
ROME (AP) — A German humanitarian group said its ship docked in southern Italy early Tuesday and disembarked all 89 people on board who had been rescued at sea, 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 release, 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 25-meter (80-foot) 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.
The new far-right-led government of Premier Giorgia Meloni has taken a hard line with nongovernmental 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 didn’t know why the Rise Above was allowed to disembark all its remaining passengers, which three other humanitarian ships were 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 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.
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 won’t allow to get off, the other with 214 people. The captains of both ships have refusing to leave, saying that under international law all people rescued at sea are vulnerable and entitled to a safe port.
In desperation, two Syrian men jumped into the sea from one of the ships, the Geo Berents, on Monday, man and a third went in after to try to save them, Doctors Without Borders reported. They were all pulled to safety and spent the night on the dock, and were reported to be in good condition, according to Maurizio Debanne, a spokesperson for the aid group.
A fourth ship, the Ocean Viking operated by SOS Mediterranee, remains in international waters off Sicily with 234 rescued people. Its first rescue was 17 days ago.
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