The Italian government is refusing to allow a Dutch registered rescue vessel, Seawatch 3, from docking at any of its ports. The mayor of the Sicilian port of Syracuse – off which Seawatch 3 is moored – says he would welcome the survivors, but the Italian authorities have refused permission to land.
Instead, the captain of the rescue vessel, Captain Jeroen, has been instructed by the Italian government to take the 47 refugees whom he rescued from drowning ten days ago to Tunisia. The Italian Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini has threatened to take legal action against the crew accusing them of supporting illegal migration.
He has told the Dutch authorities they are responsible for the fate of the refugees, since Seawatch 3.
The 47 taken on board Seawatch 3 are the survivors of a group of 100 Africans whose boat capsized – all the rest drowned. Among the survivors are thirteen children, all of whom were abused or tortured in Libyan detention camps before setting sail.
Yesterday a group of Italian doctors and MPs went out to the boat which is anchored 1.4 miles off the Italian port of Syracuse. They managed to get their despite efforts by the Italian police to prevent them visiting Seawatch 3 or meeting the refugees.
Seawatch timeline of the rescue and standoff
After a boat accident yesterday in which only three of ~120 people survived, Sea-Watch 3, in close cooperation with Watch The Med – Alarmphone and Moonbrid, today saved 47 people out of distress at sea, including eight minors.
We informed all competent authorities hours ago. At least we tried: We have not yet been able to contact the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. We are now waiting for instructions, we are waiting for a port of safety.
Day four since the rescue of 47 people from distress at sea. Still, no state has answered our requests for a port of safety.
Still waiting for a port of safety for our 47 guests onboard the Seawatch 3. They really are a lovely bunch of guys. The community spirit which they have is something beautiful and I love being with them. The dangers that they have faced are incredible. They have been beaten, abused and tortured in the most despicable of ways.
Without a safe port for the exhausted shipwrecked and in expectation of a Mediterranean storm with waves of more than 7 meters, Sea-Watch 3 sought shelter on Thursday in the east of the Sicilian coast, which was not affected by the worst part of the storm.
When the mayor of the city of Siracusa announced that he would welcome all 47 people, Captain Jeroen asked the port authorities for permission to enter – and was refused: Now the ship is anchored 1.4 miles away from the port of Siracusa and is not allowed to leave.
Minister Salvini says: I sent a letter to the Dutch government in which the it is officially and formally tasked with dealing with this vessel, which flies the Dutch flag, and of the passengers on board,”
“The Government of the Italian Republic invites the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to urgently prepare what is necessary to organize the transfer into Dutch territory of the 47 migrants,” a note issued by the Italian Interior Ministry said.
“If the Dutch government is not able to control vessels, which carry its country’s flag there’s a serious problem: The flag should be withdrawn immediately!” Salvini said on Twitter.
The Dutch government rejected the call.
“It is up to the Sea-Watch 3 captain to find a safe haven nearby,” the Justice Ministry in The Hague, which is responsible for asylum issues, said.