The humanitarian rescue ship Geo Barents carried out two rescues on January 2, violating a new Italian decree on NGOs active in the Mediterranean. Now the ship that is run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is headed to Taranto and risks sanctions.
Following two rescue operations in the Mediterranean on Monday (January 2), the Geo Barents ship is headed to Taranto, in the Puglia region, with 85 migrants on board and the possibility of incurring in sanctions.
The Geo Barents, operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), it is the first ship of a humanitarian organization to have conducted a rescue operation after the approval of the Italian NGO decree, which establishes a new conduct code on rescue activities at sea for NGOs.
Among the measure's rules -- which were signed on Monday by the Italian President of the Republic and published in the Official Journal -- is the one that requires asking immediately for a secure port to dock without staying at sea after the rescue and to begin the process of formalizing the asylum requests already while the migrants are still on board.
The fines can go as high as €50,000 and the seizure of the boat.
Two operations requested by Italian authorities
The two operations that took place within a few hours on Monday were requested by Italian authorities.
"Following the request of the National Coordination Centre of Maritime Rescue, our team on board the Geo Barents first rescued 41 persons in trouble in international waters off the coasts of Libya, then coordinated the transfer of 44 migrants from a commercial ship, in both cases following the request of Italian authorities, who assigned the port of Taranto as a destination, which is where we are directed," explained the MSF staff.
The Geo Barents had then gone to another rescue site after it received the indication of a boat in danger, but for the moment it did not find the ship nor people at sea.
"Regarding the need to ask to formalize the asylum request on board we prefer to see the final draft of the decree before we express our opinion on what to do," added Doctors Without Borders, which in case of breach of the norm risks sanctions in the best case.
Other NGO ships in the ports of Spain and Italy
The last ship to have docked, before the approval of the NGO decree, was the Ocean Viking of SOS Mediterranée, on Saturday, December 31 in Ravenna, with 113 migrants on board. Among those on board a woman with a 17-day old child was hospitalized as a precautionary measure while others might be in need of special medical attention for having probably suffered violence.
Aside from the Doctors Without Borders ship, other NGO ships for the moment remain docked at Italian and Spanish ports.
One, Ocean Vilking of SOS Mediterranée, is now in Ravenna, the other ships are Rise Above of Mission Lifeline at Augusta, in Sicily (the same port from which on Friday the Geo Barents set sail), and the Life Support ship of Emergency, in the port of Livorno in Tuscany.
Humanity 1 of the NGO SOS Humanity and the Louise Michel of the same NGO, Open Arms, Astral and Sea-Eye 4 of Sea-Eye are docked in Spain.
"Our proposition for 2023 is to save even more lives. Because over the course of the year thousands will flee again, risking their lives, from Libya, a country with a civil war. We will be there to help as many persons as possible," writes Sea-Eye in a tweet.