The blockade by Italy of the boat of the German NGO Sea Watch in the port of Catania (Sicily) leaves the Mediterranean, for the moment, without boats of humanitarian organizations that help migrants.
The vessel “Sea Watch 3” is paralyzed in the Sicilian port, after the Italian authorities have detected a series of “irregularities”, and will not be able to return to the Mediterranean until the situation is clarified.
The Prosecutor’s Office of Catania has opened an investigation, which at the moment is not directed against anyone in particular, after that NGO landed on January 31 to 47 migrants who had attended at sea twelve days before.
Italy has blocked the ‘Sea Watch 3’ for “irregularities”
These people waited for almost two weeks to be granted access to some port, until Italy indicated to the vessel that it could go to Catania, after having agreed to the relocation of the saved with seven other European countries.
The investigation has been opened with the hypothesis of alleged criminal association aimed at facilitating illegal immigration and, according to Italian media, the prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro wants to determine if the performance of the crew was legal at all times and identify potential traffickers of people.
Zuccaro is known in the country because he has already been responsible for undertaking various cases against NGOs operating in the central Mediterranean and has accused these organizations in the past of complicity with trafficking networks.
For the German NGO, the decision to block its ship is nothing more than “a technical pretext to stop the relief activities at sea”.
The ship “Sea Watch 3” was the last one left so far in the Mediterranean to save lives and rescue migrants trying to reach European shores on unstable barges.
In January, the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms denounced that the Spanish authorities prevented the ship “Open Arms” from leaving the port of Barcelona, as the Maritime Captaincy, which depends on the Ministry of Development, did not grant it authorization to set sail for the central Mediterranean.
The founder and director of this NGO, Òscar Camps, assured then that his organization complied “with all the legal requirements” and defended the fundamental work carried out by NGOs in the Mediterranean to protect migrants.
In January, the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms denounced that the Spanish authorities prevented the ship “Open Arms” from leaving the port of Barcelona
Last Wednesday, Camps again charged against the Executive of Pedro Sánchez with a message on social networks in which he said that the Spanish government “draws a plan to reduce migration by 50% leaving them in the largest well in the world.”
“It does not close ports, but it blocks (the ship) Open Arms and restricts the presence of lifeboats in the sea,” he wrote.
On the other hand, the boat of the NGO Sea Eye is carrying out the pertinent actions for the change of crew and its set-up, and plans to sail again in two weeks.
Neither does the “Aquarius” already operate, since in December the NGOs SOS Méditerranée and Doctors Without Borders announced the end of the mission of a vessel that had sailed almost to sea since its departure for the first time in February 2016 from the port of Marseille. 30,000 people in international waters.
Since June, the “Lifeline”, of the homonymous German NGO, has been held in Malta, where it faces an investigation due to its administrative situation, after 230 immigrants rescued six days earlier disembarked in Valletta.
The Maltese authorities immobilized the ship and opened an investigation to find out if the crew could favor illegal immigration and if the NGO legally carried the Dutch flag because, according to the Government of this country, it did not have permission to carry it.
The small German NGO Jugend Rettet also saw their boat “Iuventa” seized by the Italian authorities in August 2017, the same month in which the organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) canceled the operations of “Prudence” and Save the Children He did the same with the “Vos Hestia”.
A month later, the Maltese NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) put an end to its relief activities in the Mediterranean for lack of “guarantee of reception of those rescued in safe ports” and set course for Southeast Asia to help the Rohinyá people.