A row escalated on Friday 4th November over who should take care of migrants rescued by NGO’s rescue vessels offshore Italy, with Italy insisting that countries whose flag was flown by the vessels should bear some of the responsibility and Norway disagreeing.
3 NGO rescue vessels holding almost 1,000 migrants have been at sea offshore Italy for more than a week waiting for permission from the new rightist government in Rome to dock. All their requests have so far been rejected, they say. Two are flying the Norwegian flag and one is flying the German flag. Italy last week sent letters to the embassies of Germany and Norway, saying ships by non-governmental organizations flying their flags were not following European security rules and were undermining the fight against illegal immigration. But Norway replied that it could not intervene.
Norway has no responsibility under human rights conventions or the law of the sea for persons taken on board private Norwegian-flagged vessels in the Mediterranean, Ambassador Johan Vibe said in an emailed statement to Reuters on Friday. The German embassy on Wednesday urged Italy to provide help swiftly, saying the NGO ships made an important contribution to saving lives at sea. Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi told a news conference on Friday that the 61 metre DEU flag vessel HUMANITY 1 with 179 people aboard, including more than 100 unaccompanied minors, was heading towards the Port of Catania, Sicily.
He stated that the ship HUMANITY 1 would be allowed to stop close to the port and Italy would take charge of those facing health emergencies and the minors. But the boat and the rest of those onboard would then be sent out of territorial waters. “We won’t neglect humanitarian obligations… but we want to stick to the point regarding duties of flag states,” Piantedosi said. Petra Krischok, a press officer at the German NGO who is aboard the vessel, said the migrants were sleeping on the deck and could soon face rough seas after days of good weather.
At the time of writing both GEO BARENTS and HUMANITY 1 are still berthed at Porto Di Catania ( Monday 7th November 1920 hrs)
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Published – Monday 7th November, 2022