Migrants: the humanitarian ship Louise Michel immobilized by Italy

The German humanitarian ship Louise Michel, which rescues migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, has been immobilized since Saturday on the island of Lampedusa by the Italian authorities, the NGO that chartered it announced on Sunday. “We still have not received an official written justification for the detention” of the ship, said the NGO of the same name on its Twitter account. But “we know that there are dozens of boats in distress around the island at this very moment, but we are prevented from rescuing them. This is unacceptable!”, She added.

In a press release, the coastguard confirmed the immobilization of the former French Navy ship, decorated by the artist Banksy, one of its sponsors. After carrying out a first rescue operation in Libyan waters, the Louise Michel was assigned the port of Trapani, Sicily, but “did not comply with this injunction by heading towards three other migrant boats”, they said. justified.

1,417 migrants disappeared in the central Mediterranean in 2022

Since taking office in October 2022, the executive Italian majority on the far right has multiplied the obstacles to the operations of humanitarian ships in the Mediterranean and engaged in a standoff with its European partners to obtain from them more solidarity in the reception of migrants. A decree that came into force earlier this year requires humanitarian ships to carry out only one rescue at a time, which critics say increases the risk of death in the central Mediterranean, considered by the International Organization for Migration ( IOM) as the most dangerous migration route in the world. The UN agency estimates that in 2022, 1,417 migrants disappeared there.

Thousands of migrants land on the island of Lampedusa

In the case of the Louise Michel, a modest-sized ship (30 meters), the ban imposed on her from carrying out several interventions at the same time was intended to prevent her “taking on board a number of people such as could jeopardize its safety and that of the migrant boats to which they rescue”, argued the coast guard. In recent days, thousands of migrants have landed on the island of Lampedusa, off the eastern coast of Tunisia, aboard their own boats or Italian coast guard boats. The Louise Michel, for its part, picked up 180 people at sea before dropping them off on the island.

While NGOs transport only a small percentage of migrants, the Italian government accuses them of stimulating their arrivals and encouraging traffickers.

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