Organizers from the NGO-led Mediterranea project announced that the migrant rescue ship "Mare Jonio" has left the Port of Palermo for its second mission of monitoring and reporting in international waters between the Italian coasts and Libya on November 1. In a statement, they said the vessel had remained anchored for a few days in the Sicilian port for a technical and refueling stop. They said the vessel is currently the only one sailing in the Central Mediterranean with the essential function of witnessing and ready to intervene, as necessary, in aiding ships in difficulty.
"Lack of vessels due to criminalization of NGOs"
In the statement, the NGOs said the current situation is the "direct consequence of the campaign of criminalization of NGOs and the politics of border closures in a stretch of sea considered the deadliest border in the world". They said in September one person in five was killed or went missing at sea, among those who attempted the Mediterranean crossing.
In its first mission, which began on October 4 and lasted for 12 days, the Mare Jonio received reports and SOS calls from rubber dinghies struggling at sea. On October 12, it had a decisive role in soliciting the timely rescue of 70 people in danger off the coast of Lampedusa, after the rebounding of responsibility between Malta and Italy, the statement said.
Mediterranea project to keep awareness high
The statement said the presence of the Mediterranea project "has been essential for keeping the attention of public opinion high on what is actually happening in the waters south of Sicily, and for not allowing our governments to turn away from tragedies that call on a shared sense of responsibility and humanity".
It said that in recent days thousands of people have participated in the initiatives related to "La Via di Terra" to support the mission, "Italian and European citizens who don't accept the racist rhetoric that is fed daily". It said that Riccardo Gatti of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms will also participate in the mission, as well as a sea rescue team from the German NGO Sea-Watch, a project partner.