European States Urged to Stop Obstructing Civilian Search and Rescue Efforts in the Mediterranean

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A joint statement signed by 56 organizations, including Statewatch, is calling for European states to stop obstructing and hindering civil search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea. The statement highlights the preventable deaths that occur in the Central Mediterranean each year and emphasizes the urgent need for search and rescue ships to prevent further loss of life. It specifically criticizes EU member states, particularly Italy, for actively obstructing civilian search and rescue efforts.

The statement mentions three civilian ships, Aurora, Open Arms, and Sea-Eye 4, that are currently being prevented from operating at sea due to detention orders issued by Italian authorities. It notes that these detentions add to the administrative obstruction faced by search and rescue NGOs this year, with a total of eight cases of detentions in Italy. The statement argues that these obstructions have kept search and rescue vessels away for a significant amount of time that could have been used to rescue people in distress.

The joint statement highlights the recent law passed by Italy, which increased requirements and introduced sanctions for search and rescue activities. It criticizes the law for pressuring captains of civil fleet ships to disobey international maritime law and obstruct rescue operations. The statement also criticizes Italy’s “distant ports” practice, which requires NGO ships to disembark survivors far away from the site of rescue. It argues that these measures obstruct the lifesaving activities of search and rescue vessels and violate international law. The signatories call on the EU and its member states to urgently stop obstructing civilian search and rescue vessels, release detained ships, revoke Italy’s restrictive law, and create legal and safe corridors to prevent unsafe migration attempts.

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