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Italy grounds the NGO recognisance plane Moonbird

REFUGEE rescuers condemned the Italian government on Tuesday for preventing a non-governmental organisation’s (NGO) reconnaissance plane from carrying out its monitoring missions in the central Mediterranean.

German refugee rescue organisation Sea Watch announced in a video released this afternoon that, since Friday, the Italian authorities had prohibited its plane Moonbird from departing the island of Lampedusa.

“The Italian government and the European Union want to make sure that no-one knows the truth about what happens in the central Mediterranean,” Sea Watch legal adviser Giorgia Linardi said in the video.

The real reason the plane was grounded, Ms Linardi said, is because “we spent too many hours at sea reporting the presence of people in need [of immediate rescue], reporting the omissions of rescue, and the unacceptable delays in providing support to these people as well as the illegal interceptions and pushbacks of these people onto Libya.

“We are not able to report to you, to the whole world, what is happening in the central Mediterranean, so that governments can continue committing their crimes.”

This latest attack on NGO rescuers comes after emails leaked to the press on Friday from the German Transport Ministry revealed that changes made to the safety requirements for yachts and other small vessels in June were deliberately designed to prevent NGO rescuers from operating.

The new regulations, implemented in June, have meant that rescue ships belonging to German NGOs Mare Liberum, Mission Lifeline and ResQship cannot leave port.

Mission Lifeline said: “The law was deliberately changed here to allow people to drown. Do we have to wave the imperial flags first so that there is a nationwide protest?”

On Sunday Mare Liberum said that it had submitted an appeal for an accelerated response to the court against the law changes.

“We will fight this deliberate and anti-refugee-motivated attempt to prevent human rights monitoring by the German government.”

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