France and Germany are calling on Italy’s new far-right government to grant safe harbor to nearly 1,000 people rescued by aid groups in the central Mediterranean, some of whom have been stranded at sea for more than two weeks.
Aid groups caring for migrants rescued on three ships in the central Mediterranean are sounding the alarm over deteriorating conditions, including people sleeping on the ground in the cold and the spread of fevers.
Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi has drafted new measures alleging non-governmental groups violated procedure by failing to properly coordinate their rescues, a step setting the stage for Italy to close the ports.
Piantedosi also asked the countries whose flag they fly to intervene.
Italy’s posture of keeping silent in the face of repeated demands for a safe harbor has effectively blocked three charity-run rescue boats at sea. Interior Matteo Salvini, now in charge of ports as Minister of Infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Italian authorities continue to allow arrivals of people rescued by Italian patrols, including 456 who arrived in Calabria on Thursday.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Friday that international law made it clear that Italy, as the nearest port, should let the ship in. its headquarters in France.
We have no doubt that Italy will welcome the ship, … that Italy will respect international law, he told French news channel BFM TV.
The German Foreign Ministry said on Thursday it had asked Italy to intervene quickly to help those on board the German-flagged Humanitarian 1, with 179 people on board. The boat is currently east of Sicily carrying 100 unaccompanied minors as well as a 7-month-old baby, the charity SOS Humanity, which runs it, said.
They continue to be exposed to the elements, having to spend the cold nights on deck. Yet they are sleeping on the ground as the winds and waves increase,’ spokesman Wasil Schauseil said, adding that the state of limbo was adding to their mental stress. Fever was also spreading among those rescued, with COVID tests coming back negative.
Darmanin said France and Germany have let Italy know that they are both ready to take in some of the migrants so that Italy does not bear the burden alone.
Also at sea, Geo Barents, managed by Doctors Without Borders, also under the Norwegian flag, with 572 people on board, including 60 unaccompanied minors as well as families with children and the elderly.
Charities have denied circumventing procedures and say it is their duty to rescue people in distress at sea. According to the UN refugee agency, coastal states are required to accept people from ships as soon as possible”, and that governments should cooperate to provide a place of safety for the survivors.
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