Europe – Italy detains rescue ship ‘Louise Michel’ for violating migration law on safe harbours

Archive – The ‘Louise Michel’ rescue ship – Europa Press/Contacto/Lmp

The maritime authorities of the Italian island of Lampedusa have proceeded to detain the rescue vessel ‘Louise Michel’ for violating the safe harbor regulations stipulated by Italian law, the Italian Coast Guard has learned in a statement.

The detention of the ship occurred during the disembarkation of about 180 migrants saved in at least three operations carried out during the previous days.

The law stipulates in this regard that NGO rescue ships operating in the central Mediterranean must proceed to safe harbor the moment they receive permission to do so and in no way carry out additional rescues thereafter.

On its Twitter account, the NGO acknowledged having received safe harbor on up to two occasions but argued that the gravity of the situation in the area led its crew to make additional rescues.

»The instructions given to the NGO ship, considering its small size,» the Coast Guard explained, »were also aimed at preventing it from embarking a number of people that would endanger both its safety and that of the migrant boats it would be assisting.»

The authorities add that the law is aimed, above all, at not overloading the concession permits and thus facilitating the management of new arrivals.

»To this behavior, which already complicated the delicate work of rescue coordination, were added the continuous calls from NGO aircraft that overloaded the communication systems of the national rescue coordination center,» the coastguards add.

The organization, for its part, denounces that the Rescue Coordination Center put pressure on the ship’s crew on several occasions to refrain from further operations and has denounced that an Italian coastguard patrol ignored the migrants’ pleas during one of the rescue procedures.

»The European authorities are fully aware of the people in distress in their rescue and rescue waters. Yet they prevent this ship from leaving port and providing assistance. Lives such as those lost in shipwrecks are neither an accident nor a tragedy. They are looking for it to happen,» the organization lamented.

About 3,000 migrants have been rescued or have reached the Italian coasts since Friday, according to official estimates collected by the RAI channel.

PERSECUTION AGAINST THE ‘OCEAN VIKING’ On the other hand, the Italian Coast Guard has disavowed any responsibility in the incident that occurred on Saturday around the rescue boat ‘Ocean Viking’ of the NGO SOS Mediterranée, whose crew members claim to have been chased by the Libyan Coast Guard, who even fired shots in the air, during a rescue operation.

According to the organization’s account, a Libyan patrol boat interfered in the rescue of 80 migrants in distress and began to pursue the ‘Ocean Viking’. SOS Mediterranée denounces that the coast guard »fired shots in the air» to drive their ship away from the area.

The Seabird 2 aircraft, operated by the NGO Sea Watch, captured the entire incident, which ended with the forced return to Libya of the 80 intercepted migrants.

In this regard, the Italian Coast Guard argues that the operation of the Ocean Viking was not communicated to the flag country as required by the safety of navigation regulations, but to the Italian coordination center, continuously »ending up also by overloading it in particularly intense moments due to the salvages in progress».

It must be said that the governor of the Italian region of Lazio, Francesco Rocca, has condemned the interception of the Libyan coast guard against the ‘Ocean Viking’.

»Shocking and worrying: the Libyan Coast Guard blocked a rescue operation of the ‘Ocean Viking’, getting dangerously close and firing several shots in the air,» he has denounced on Twitter, where he has recalled that »humanitarians are not a target» and that »saving lives is a humanitarian imperative and a legal obligation».