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Italy sends Mediterranean migrant rescue workers on 1,000km detour to help late arrivals

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Two migrant rescue charities say Italy’s policy of forcing long-distance routes to reach people in distress is deadly.

The announcement comes after more than 60 people drowned off the coast of Libya on December 14th, when rescuers were unable to reach them in time.

Both Alarmphone and SeaWatch International criticized the decision to allocate Italy the use of the Marina di Carrara port in Tuscany, 1,150 kilometers from the region where many migrant disasters occur.

“Italy has designated Marina di Carrara as a safe harbor,” SeaWatch International said.

“They are 1,150 kilometers away. The purpose of these remote ports is to keep rescue ships away from the operational area and prevent them from rescuing any more people in distress.”

This week, the charity sailed on two separate missions to rescue 119 migrants from Libya, including a three-year-old boy.

“We were able to rescue 119 people in two rescue operations,” it said in a post on social media platform X.

“Our Seabird aircraft is also providing support from the air and has resumed operations today, searching for the ship in distress.”

Rescue charity Alarmphone has also criticized Italy’s policy.

“Italy’s policy of forcing rescue workers to disembark at far-flung ports, knowing that people continue to flee from Libya, deliberately widens the gap in rescue at sea and proves once again to be deadly.” proven,” the statement said.

“We are devastated that European and Libyan authorities have once again failed to rescue people in distress, and that the EU border control regime has resulted in deaths. We condemn the continued deaths at our border.”

More than 153,000 migrants have arrived in Italy from Tunisia and Libya this year, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni won election last year on the platform of stopping illegal immigration.

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said it was witnessing “alarming levels of human suffering” and called on the EU to change its policies.

“MSF has been carrying out search and rescue operations since 2015 in direct response to the European Union’s policy of non-involvement and non-assistance in this area,” the report said.

“Our teams have provided life-saving support to more than 90,000 people on eight different search and rescue vessels, both alone and in collaboration with other non-governmental organizations.

“While MSF continues to respond to the humanitarian crisis in the Central Mediterranean by providing support, including emergency medical care, we urge the EU and its member states to immediately reverse course and protect the lives of those seeking refuge on European shores. We ask that you prioritize safety.”

Updated: December 27, 2023, 1:06 p.m.

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