The Italian government has been holding the MSF rescue ship Gio Barents since Friday. The relief organization said on Monday. “We call on the Italian authorities to release the search and rescue vessel as soon as possible,” the NGO said in a statement.
The ship was detained Friday in the port of Augusta, Sicily, after a 14-hour search. Twenty-two shortcomings were identified, ten of which were grounds for detaining the ship.
According to Doctors Without Borders, there is “administrative intimidation by the Italian authorities” to prevent humanitarian operations at sea. “Port state controls are legitimate maritime measures, designed to ensure the safety of shipping at sea. But currently, these inspections have been used by state authorities to target NGO ships in a discriminatory manner,” said Docchio Staderini of Doctors Without Borders.
The relief organization says that all necessary adjustments can be made quickly. Meanwhile, the NGO is pressing for the “immediate lifting of the arrest warrant for the ship”.
Geo Barents has been conducting search and rescue activities in the central Mediterranean since May. The aim is to save the lives of refugees and migrants trying to cross the often deadly border from Libya by sea. According to MSF, 410 people were rescued between 10 and 12 June, all of whom showed signs of extreme fatigue and other debilitating symptoms.
According to United Nations figures, at least 720 migrants have died trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean since the beginning of this year. We are facing an overwhelming reality. And while humanitarian NGO ships are being held, the needless loss of life continues in the Mediterranean.”