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Italy assigning distant harbours in north for asylum seeker rescues in Malta SAR

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The migrant rescue charities Sea-Eye and Alarm Phone has rescued some 100 people at sea over the last days, after contacting rescue coordination centres of the boats in distress.

But Italy has ordered the boat Sea-Eye 4, which rescued 51 people on board a rubber boat in distress on 29 May following a 2am distress call, to take them to a port in Genoa in the north of the country, rather than assign a southern port.

Dr Daniela Klein, on-board doctor on the Sea-Eye 4 for the NGO German Doctors, said most of the rescued people were very exhausted, hypothermic and suffering from seasickness. “Now their condition has improved significantly and all those rescued are at least physically stable and in relatively good condition,” she said.

Head of mission Julie Schweickert said the rescue was effected without incidents but the ship is now heading to Genoa in the northwest of Italy.

“We expect to arrive there on Sunday – that’s almost four days spent sailing to a distant port. Although there are enough ports of safety in the south of Italy, able to receive people on the move and provide the right services to them, we have to leave the search and rescue zone and cannot respond to further emergencies.”

The Italian authorities repeatedly assign harbours with long journey times to civilian sea rescue vessels.

After the Sea-Eye 4 last rescued 52 people from distress at sea on 20 May, the ship had to head for Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region. The port was around 900 nautical miles away from the scene of the operation.

At the time of the rescue two people required emergency medical treatment. The rescue operation took place in the Maltese search and rescue zone.

“When we arrived, we found the boat overcrowded and unsuitable for crossing the Mediterranean. There were 52 people on board, most of them from Syria. Our rapid arrival at the scene was crucial, as the weather conditions deteriorated significantly during the night. Although we have vulnerable people on board who need a safe place now, we were assigned Ravenna as our port of call – which means five more days in the Mediterranean for the survivors before we are finally allowed to dock,” Schweickert said.

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