"I'm just a seaman doing his job rescuing people in distress.."

SOS Humanity has promised to take legal action against the decree of the Italian government and the prevention of the disembarkation of 35 rescued people. 

On Saturday, 5th November, Italy permitted Humanity 1 to dock at the port of Catania to allow 144 children, pregnant women, mothers accompanying young offspring and "vulnerable people" in need of urgent medical care.

However, Humanity 1's Captain refuses to leave the port of Catania "until all survivors rescued from distress at sea have been disembarked" 

In a series of tweets, SOS Humanity added that "the law of the sea obliges him [the captain] to bring all those rescued from distress to a safe place."

On Monday, 7th November, SOS Humanity held a press conference outlining the situation in which the survivors on board Humanity 1 currently find themselves and how as a non-governmental search and rescue organisation, they are reacting to the decree transmitted to them by the Italian government.

The Captain of Humanity 1 said: "I'm just a seaman doing his job rescuing people in distress. [As captain, I am] responsible for the security of my ship. The decree, which prohibits me from disembarking the people here, is illegal."

Italy's new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her two-week-old government have promised to crack down on migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

"We must stop illegal departures and human trafficking," she said, but stressed that she does not intend "to question the right of asylum for those fleeing wars and persecutions". 

According to the UN, Italy is one of the main entry points into Europe, and since the start of the year, 85,000 migrants have arrived on boats, 

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said those who did not qualify as vulnerable would have to leave Italian waters and should be taken care of by the "flag state". 

SOS Humanity, Head of operations, Till Rummenhohl, spoke of the rescued, saying: "Right now, there are still 35 people left on board our vessel. They fear being pushed back by the Italian government into international waters; they fear being pushed back to Libya, where they fled from."

On Tuesday, 8th November, the 35 survivors remaining on board the Humanity 1 announced the majority of them had been on hunger strike for almost two days.

Every day, migrants worldwide cross or attempt to cross dangerous sea borders to escape poverty, discrimination, persecution, and other human rights violations. Desperate and often in small boats, they get into distress and are rescued by charity vessels. 

Mirka Schäfer, Advocacy Officer at SOS Humanity, stressed: "We call on European states, as well as civil society, to act immediately and not to just sit idly by and accept this injustice".

Migrants are people. Every single one of them are vulnerable. 

Human Rights at Sea will follow this story closely as the news unfolds.

Photo credit: Max Cavallari & Camilla Kranzusch/SOS Humanity.

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