NGO Sea-Eye Fights Third Detention by Italy in 2023 for Its Rescue Ship
The struggle between the humanitarian organizations conducting sea rescues and the authorities continues with the German NGO Sea-Eye seeking to start a legal challenge after the Italian authorities announced they were detaining the group’s vessel Sea-Eye 4 for the third time in 2023. Unlike previous instances where the NGOs had been fined or detained for not going to the ports as directed by the Italian authorities, the latest dispute centers around Sea-Eye 4 not following orders from a Libyan vessel and then arguing with the Italian Coast Guard for the removal of a pregnant woman that they believed was in imminent medical danger.
“We are furious – the Italian authorities have come up with an outrageous accusation to detain our ship again for 20 days and to demand a fine of around 3,000 euros from us,” Sea-Eye writes on social media. “The accusation: we had not followed the instructions of the extremely aggressive so-called Libyan coast guard.”
The situation began in the Mediterranean in international waters according to the group. They located a heavily overloaded inflatable rubber raft holding as many as 50 people. On October 27, they were in the area of the raft when a Libyan vessel ordered them to depart. The Sea-Eye 4 refused and later released a video in which they are accusing the Libyans of causing panic aboard the raft.
+ Triggerwarnung: Tod + ????Bei der gestrigen Rettung hatte die sog. libysche Küstenwache das Schlauchboot so bedrängt, dass die Menschen in Panik versuchten zu fliehen. Dabei fielen mehrere ins Wasser und werden seitdem vermisst. Im Boot musste die Crew später 4 Leichen entdecken. pic.twitter.com/kx1Q1SAIDT— Sea-Eye (@seaeyeorg) October 28, 2023
The video shows the Libyan vessel sailing close to the raft while the people aboard are waving in distress. Sea-Eye contends it caused panic and that one person is seen failing off the raft. They are saying three of the refugees nearly drowned. Sea-Eye 4 did not follow the Libyan commands and moved in and rescued the approximately 50 people in the raft. It included 32 men, 13 women, 1 child, and 1 baby.
Sea-Eye reports that they could not detect a heartbeat from an unborn child and called the Italian Coast Guard for a medical evacuation. They requested a helicopter, which they contend the Italians refused. The woman was later transferred at sea to an Italian patrol boat.
The Italians permitted Sea-Eye 4 to dock on October 29 in the port of Vibo Valentia on the southwestern coast of Italy. The organization reports that 48 people survived and were transferred to the Italian authorities. Some reports said one person died while other reports said that four bodies were transferred from the Sea-Eye 4 in Italy.
The group is reporting that the sanctioning of its vessel “has no basis in international law.” They are looking to bring a legal case against the Italian Coast Guard.
This latest dispute between the humanitarian groups and the Italian authorities continues the struggle for the past year since Giorgia Meloni’s government introduced new restrictive rules on the operation of the rescue boats seeking to stem the flow of migrants into Italy. The Missing Migrant Project highlights that more than 22,000 people are believed to have died are gone missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean in the past decade. The European Union has given more than $450 million since 2015 in an attempt to stop the illegal migration but the non-profits contend with poor conditions and abuse in Libya, the flow of migrants continues to increase.