Two migrants rescued by a ship watch a boat being rescued in the Mediterranean.


Pablo Garcia / AFP

NGOs on Sunday accused the Italian authorities of blocking under a spurious pretext a ship preparing to go to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean.

The Sea-Watch 4 was banned from leaving the port of Palermo (Sicily) after an inspection by the authorities, announced the NGOs Sea-Watch, United4Rescue and Médecins sans frontières.

The inspectors justified their decision by the fact that the capacity of the ship and its sanitary system did not allow it to bring on board as many migrants as it was about to welcome, judging by the number of life jackets. on board.

An inspection “to prevent” relief operations?

"This feeble justification shows once again that the inspection was not intended to ensure the safety of the vessel, but a systematic maneuver to prevent relief operations in the central Mediterranean", declared Philipp Hahn, head of mission. on Sea-Watch 4. "Although the authorities have asked us to help with the rescue operations, they are now blocking yet another vessel," he added.

Migrant relief NGOs repeatedly clash with the Italian authorities.

Italy has long been condemned for its refusal to accommodate private boats laden with migrants in Italian ports.

Former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is also threatened with a trial for illegally forcing migrants to stay at sea.

19,000 migrants died in five years crossing the Mediterranean

But things changed last September, following an agreement with France, Germany and Malta, and Italy now officially allows NGO ships to arrive in its ports.

In the past five years, more than 19,000 migrants have died attempting the risky crossing from Africa to Italy.


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