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3 Migrants Plunged Into Sea At Italian Port Standoff

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Treated as hostages in a standoff between humanitarian ships and Italy’s new hard-right government, three migrants who had been rescued from the Mediterranean and transported to a Sicilian port but were later forbidden from disembarking plunged into the water on Monday.

According to operator Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the guys were promptly rescued from the ocean next to the Geo Barents ship, which had more than 200 people on board and was docked in Catania.

It is one of a small number of charitable ships that save migrants who are in danger of drowning on the treacherous journey from North Africa to Europe and which are currently under attack by the government of the new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

A dozen other migrants standing on the ship’s deck began chanting “Help us” shortly after the guys jumped; one had evidently been attempting to save the other two, according to an AFP correspondent.

The Geo Barents arrived in Catania this past weekend after spending days at sea, and Italian authorities permitted 357 passengers—including children—to disembark while denying admission to 215 others.

The nearby German-flagged rescue vessel Humanity 1 let out 144 passengers, but there are still 35 adult male migrants on board who were also denied permission to land.

According to a government order released on Friday, Humanity 1 was only permitted to enter an Italian port for the duration of the time needed to assist persons in “emergency conditions.”

The far-right Brothers of Italy party, led by Meloni, and Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League have joined forces to form Italy’s two-week-old government, which has sworn to stop the tens of thousands of migrants that arrive on its shores each year.

Most travel to Europe on overcrowded, leaky boats, and many perish in the process. But Italy has long criticized the EU for not sharing the responsibility for solving the issue.

Salvini, who is presently facing charges for stopping migrant boats in 2019 while serving as interior minister, declared on Monday that the influx of people must be stopped.

“They are planned, risky expeditions that help pay for drugs and guns. They must be disconnected,” the former prime minister’s deputy tweeted.

However, when tensions grew in Catania, more than 500 individuals were saved by Italian authorities and disembarked in Sicily, according to the administrator of Syracuse, who spoke to AFP.

Psychological tension

MSF reported on Monday that one of the 215 people still aboard the Geo Barents subsequently underwent emergency medical treatment after experiencing “acute stomach pain.” This brought the number to 214.

The Democratic Party’s Antonio Nicita, a senator from the center-left, claimed to have visited the ship and saw “a lot of misery.”

He told AFP that “several persons stripped in front of us to exhibit their scabies infection.”

Riccardo Gatti, the head of search and rescue at MSF, continued, “Their circumstance, their level of psychological stress is very, very high.

In terms of medical help, “the ship has its limitations: a ship is like an ambulance, and people are still in the ambulance,” he remarked.

The charity SOS Humanity, which runs the Humanity 1 ship, claimed that following a “short” medical examination, officials determined that the 35 men still on board were “healthy” and did not need to disembark.

However, it claimed that no translator was present, there was no psychological assessment, and it has filed a lawsuit against the Italian government for deciding who is allowed to enter Italy.

Riccardo Campochiaro, an attorney for SOS Humanity, told AFP that if a port is secure, then it is secure for everyone.

Joachim Ebeling, the ship’s captain, refused to comply with the request to leave the harbor on Monday, telling reporters: “I’m not going anywhere with these individuals onboard.”

International responsibilities

The International Organization for Migration, the UNHCR, and the UN Refugee Agency all advised the migrants to depart “without delay.”

“Italy’s efforts in the disembarkation of around 400 people… are welcomed. The remaining survivors, however, urgently require a solution, according to a joint statement.

They also mentioned the Ocean Viking and Rise Above, two more migrant rescue ships that had been waiting off Sicily with about 230 and 90 passengers, respectively.

Late on Monday, media reports stated that Rise Above had been given a port in southern Italy.

The appeal for a swift disembarkation was backed by a number of civil society organizations, including ActionAid International, Human Rights Watch, and the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“The law of the sea is unambiguous; a rescue stops when all individuals saved are disembarked in a location of safety,” Amnesty International claims, accusing Italy of “violating its international commitments.”


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