After almost two weeks in the Mediterranean, the rescue ship “Sea-Watch 3” with 47 refugees on board in the Italian port of Catania has created. The helpers fear repression.

The refugees aboard the rescue vessel “Sea-Watch 3” have landed in Sicilian Catania. When the ship broke in, the refugees cheered and hugged the crew. At the port, the Red Cross had built tents to accommodate the 47 migrants. For each of the probably 15 minors on board a guardian was ready.
The minors were identified by the security forces and placed in appropriate facilities nearby, reported the Italian radio. The remaining wages, which had been rescued from distress on 19 January off the Libyan coast, are to be housed in the reception center of the neighboring port city of Messina. According to the information they come from Senegal, Sudan and Guinea Bissau.

Police and Red Cross in the port of Catania

Police and Red Cross in the port of Catania


Italy had refused to let the ship dock until enough European countries provided for the reception of the refugees. On Wednesday, Italy, Germany, France, Portugal, Romania, Malta and Luxembourg had agreed.

Because of a storm low, the “Sea-Watch 3” had recently anchored in front of the Sicilian city of Syracuse. The mayor of Syracuse, Francesco Italia, had also offered to take in the refugees. However, the Italian authorities now instructed the ship to call at the port of Catania, some 70 kilometers to the north. According to the Ministry of Interior, minors on board can best be accommodated there.

Italy rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 in port of Catania broken in (Getty Images / AFP / F. Scoppa)

The helpers, however, fear repression there. The prosecutor of Catania is known for his actions against the rescue organizations, said the aid organization Sea-Watch on Twitter. The fact that they were not assigned to the nearest port of Syracuse but to Catania was a political move. “We hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”
The prosecutor’s office Catania had in the past confiscated vessels of the aid organizations “Doctors Without Borders” and “Proactiva Open Arms”, after they had brought boat people to Sicily. If he also paralyzes the “Sea-Watch 3”, only a single private support ship in the sea area between Libya and Italy would be in use: The “Mare Jonio” is not to save migrants themselves and bring to the mainland, but mainly for refugee boats in distress Keeping an eye out.

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The situation for boat people in the central Mediterranean has worsened considerably since the new populist government took office in Italy in the middle of last year. Rome has since refused ships with refugees to enter Italian ports and demands more solidarity from other EU countries.
The “Sea-Watch 3” runs under Dutch flag. Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the right-wing Lega Party had therefore insisted that Germany or the Netherlands accept the refugees. However, both the Netherlands and the Federal Government initially refused to accept it.

Italy rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 in port of Catania arrived (picture-alliance / dpa / AP / S. Cavalli)

The Italian Coast Guard and the police accompanied the entrance of the “Sea-Watch 3”


Because of the blockade, Sea-Watch had brought in the European Court of Human Rights. He called on Italy on Tuesday to help the migrants on board the ship. Rome had to provide food and water “as quickly as possible” and provide medical care to the people on the ship, the Strasbourg court said.

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