The children rescued in the Mediterranean must be able to disembark in a safe harbor, the charities said Saturday, amidst a dead end on the issue of migrant arrivals in Italy, now ruled by the far right.
Four humanitarian ships carrying rescued migrants are currently asking for permission to dock safely in Italy, as conditions at sea worsen due to bad weather.
“We have many children on board, as well as women with children. It is urgent to assign us a port,” Hermione Poschmann, of the German association Mission Lifeline, which operates the rescue ship, told AFP. , November 5th.
>> To see: “Migrants: dead under X in the Mediterranean”
Babies of 7 and 10 months on board
The Rise Above, which rescued 95 people in three operations on Thursday, carries 42 minors including eight children, the youngest just seven and ten months old.
“The situation will continue to worsen due to the enormous psychological pressure on those on board,” said mission head Clemens Ledwa.
The German ship is one of four rescue boats currently asking for permission to dock due to deteriorating conditions at sea due to bad weather.
Rise Above, Humanity 1, Ocean Viking and Geo Barents alone host more than 1,000 people gathered in the Mediterranean.
Italy’s new far-right government, which was sworn in last month, has pledged to crack down on migrants fleeing from North Africa to Europe.
The ship “Humanity 1” bound for Catania
Under pressure, Italy announced on Friday that it will authorize Humanity 1, run by the German organization SOS Humanity and carrying 179 migrants on board, to enter its territorial waters in order to carry out medical checks.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani announced during an evening press conference in Rome that the Humanity 1 ship was headed for Catania.
«You will be able to stay in our territorial waters for the time necessary to examine all emergencies on board. We will accept all people for example because they are minors, or because, according to what we know from the media, they are pregnant women or with small children, people who have a fever, ”she said. But “all people who do not meet these criteria will have to be escorted out of our territorial waters by the ship,” she warned.
Geo Barrents, of the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and currently carrying 572 rescued people, said on Saturday that he had also entered Italian territorial waters to take refuge there “after having asked for and received the green light from the authorities”.
“We have been waiting for more than ten days for a safe landing,” underlined the head of the mission, Juan Matias Gil.
Over 1,000 migrants on rescue ships at sea
More than 1,000 migrants trying to reach Europe are currently on rescue boats at sea, including 234 on the Ocean Viking of the NGO SOS Méditerranée, which works in collaboration with the International Federation of the Red Cross, and 572 on the Géo Barents of Médecins sans frontiere (MSF). To these are added those on board Humanity 1 and the Rise Above organization of the Lifeline organization (94 rescued migrants).
An “uprising” on board would threaten the Rise Above which could also be authorized to approach the Italian coast, Antonio Tajani has suggested.
Since Thursday, Germany had sent a diplomatic note to Italy, asking “the Italian government to provide rapid assistance” in view of the humanitarian emergency. Faced with worsening weather conditions at sea, the NGO SOS Méditerranée, based in Marseille, had in fact urged France, Spain and Greece to help it find a port of disembarkation as quickly as possible.
So far, twenty requests for safe havens have been made by the NGO, without success.
France, on the other hand, declared itself ready on Friday to welcome women and children.
“We have told our Italian friends, along with our German friends, that we are obviously ready to take some of the women and children, as we have done previously,” French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told RMC / BFMTV.
“I want to thank France for this opening. It is an important signal”, the head of Italian diplomacy reacted.
The most dangerous road in the world
SOS Méditerranée also welcomed France’s announcement, but “any additional day of waiting could have serious consequences,” warned the director and co-founder of the NGO Sophie Beau.
On the Ocean Viking, which is located off the coast of Sicily, “the rescued passengers are calm, even if some are starting to show signs of seasickness. Today exactly two weeks have passed since the first rescue operation”, a photographer on board.
“The sea is getting bigger and bigger. It is raining and the rain should increase in the evening,” he testified.
With the arrival of the far right in power in Rome, Italian leaders have multiplied anti-migrant statements.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi announced that he had issued a directive warning the police and port authorities that his ministry is considering a ban on entry into the territorial waters of Ocean Viking and Geo Barents, both flying the Norwegian flag.
The Italian Catholic community of Sant’Egidio, which acts as the Vatican’s informal diplomatic arm, on Friday invited “Europe, and in particular the countries whose NGO flag flies, to find an agreement to relocate the asylum seekers” who have arrived. On Italian soil.
But the Norwegian government has declined to the AFP any “responsibility (…) towards the people on board” on board the ships.
For the director general of the Association for Aid to Migrants France, a land of asylum, Delphine Rouilleault, on Twitter, “an arm wrestling (…) is undoubtedly a necessary step in order not to let Italy trample the International law “.
Since the beginning of the year, 1,765 migrants have disappeared in the Mediterranean, of which 1,287 in the central Mediterranean, the most dangerous migration route in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
According to the Italian Interior Ministry, 85,991 people arrived by sea in Italy between 1uh January 2 and November 2, 2022, half of which are citizens of Tunisia, Egypt and Bangladesh.