British crew trapped on migrant rescue ship seek help

Crew and migrants aboard Sea Watch-3 call for an end to current deadlock. (Credit: https://sea-watch.org/)

Four British crew members trapped on the migrant rescue ship Sea Watch-3 have called on the UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to pressure the Italian government to end the deadlock, which has kept the ship’s crew and 47 rescued asylum seekers trapped for several weeks.

The charity ship and its crew rescued the 47 sub Saharan migrants from a rubber boat that was sinking in international waters north of Zuwara, Libya. The ship was allowed to anchor off Syracuse in western Sicily in order to take shelter from storms that hit the central Mediterranean. However, Italy’s interior Minister Matteo Salvini has remained steadfast in his decision to prohibit Sea Watch-3 from docking at any Italian port and remains insistent in his ruling that the recused asylum seekers and the ship’s crew cannot land.

Salvini’s reasoning is that Italy has already taken in too many asylum seekers and he said that the burden should be passed onto Germany or Netherlands as Sea Watch-3 is sailing under a Dutch flag and is operated by a German NGO. In response, The Netherlands rejected Italy’s call to take in the migrants last week, arguing that the Dutch-flagged ship had acted “on its own initiative”.

Sea Watch e.V continues to issue urgent calls to action for stark improvements to be mandated under international law regarding the way asylum seekers are being denied fundamental rights by keeping them hostage at sea for long periods. In a recent statement, the charity expressed their belief that Europe is not only letting people drown, it is actively hindering those willing to help, dubbing it a “deadly policy”.

UK-based charity The Mission for Seafarers share the same viewpoint and are actively working to provide assistance to both seafarers and to any migrants experiencing such desperate situations.

Last year, the Mission placed a chaplain on board a migrant rescue ship in recognition of the stresses that can be placed upon crew. The Revd Andrew Wright, secretary general, The Mission to Seafarers told SAS, “We are acutely aware that these stresses can also impact on the wider seafaring community; those who become caught up in an unexpected humanitarian rescue.”

Rev Wight continued, “While we recognise political pressures and challenges, maritime law states that anyone in need on the high seas should be helped and rescued. It is therefore an act of proper humanity to allow these individuals, often escaping from the most desperate situations, to land in a safe haven. We salute the courageous and compassionate contribution made by so many seafarers in response to this need and encourage efforts to ensure effective training and effective support to any who might find themselves involved.