EU bans seizure of migrant rescue ships – 05/08/2022 – World

The CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) ruled this week that ships that rescue migrants adrift at sea cannot be seized by national authorities for exceeding the number of people they should legally transport. Mediterranean ports in Italy, Greece, Malta and islands near Turkey are the most popular for humanitarian vessels.

The drama of migrants on humanitarian boats looking for a country is a tragic portrait of human contempt. The scene repeats itself frequently, often with deplorable endings, and intensifies in the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere, when there are fewer risks in the crossings.

In recent days, three humanitarian organizations — SOS Mediterráneo, MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) and Sea Watch — have rescued more than 1,000 people adrift in overcrowded boats, sailing from North Africa to the coast of Italy. The law of the sea contains “a fundamental duty to provide assistance to people in distress,” the court’s ruling said this week.

The decision concerns two ships from the NGO Sea Watch seized by the Italian authorities two years ago. According to the judges, given the nature of the vessel’s activities, the number of people on board cannot be taken into account if the safety conditions of passengers are respected.

The port authorities could only detain the boats if “serious indications of danger to health, safety, the environment or work on board” were identified. The ECJ’s decision was celebrated as a victory for all maritime rescues in the Mediterranean.

highly profitable business

Migratory flows on the central Mediterranean route are the most dangerous in the world. Every year, thousands of people try to enter the European Union illegally in overcrowded boats. These are long and dramatic journeys, without the minimum security requirements, made by migrant smugglers. The trip can cost more than R$ 10 thousand per person.

According to Frontex, the European border and coastal guard agency, during the three years leading up to the pandemic (2017 to 2020), traffickers earned €330 million (R$1.7 billion) on Mediterranean routes. The IOM (International Organization for Migration) reported that more than 20,000 people lost their lives on these crossings in the last decade.

The MSF vessel Geo Barents is currently carrying 659 people, including more than 150 minors who do not yet have a port to disembark. The Ocean Viking, at the behest of SOS Mediterráneo, disembarked 387 people in the small tourist port of Salerno on Sunday (31).

Meanwhile, after three days of waiting, the ship Sea Watch 3 disembarked 438 people on the 30th in Trento, southern Italy. The country has so far recorded more than 42,000 migrant arrivals, compared to nearly 30,000 during the same period last year.

Lack of assistance in the Mediterranean

The story of young German captain Carola Rackete, 34, illustrates the reality of rescues in the region. In June 2019, she had her name splashed across newspaper headlines when, in command of Sea Watch 3, she rescued more than 40 people and docked without authorization in the port of Lampedusa, Italy.

At the time, the veto was imposed by the then Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, leader of the Italian far-right. Rackete was arrested for allegedly helping with illegal immigration and, late last year, the court decided to drop the case.

According to MSF teams, “the normalization of policies of deterrence and non-assistance at sea, as well as the dismantling of the system and search and rescue in favor of forced returns, continue to generate human suffering and loss of life.”

This week humanitarian NGOs working in the Mediterranean called for more EU involvement in rescuing migrants.

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