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OVER 350 shipwrecked refugees rescued by an NGO vessel received news that they had finally been allowed to come ashore today, 11 days after the first group was saved in the central Mediterranean.
The Italian authorities told the crew of Sea Watch 4 today that the 353 rescued refugees could disembark in Palermo, Sicily, after first being quarantined aboard an Italian ship.
The announcement came a day after Doctors Without Borders (MSF) — the international medical charity which operates Sea Watch 4 alongside German rescue-NGO Sea Watch — warned that they were having to monitor water consumption and ration supplies.
Launched in August, Sea Watch 4 saved the lives of over 200 people in the Libyan search-and-rescue (SAR) zone in its first 48 hours at sea.
On Saturday, the ship took on another 152 people after coming to the aid of the Louise Michel, a small 30-metre ship abandoned by authorities inside Malta’s SAR zone.
MSF’s communications manager aboard Sea Watch 4 Hannah Bowman told the Star that everyone was relieved to finally have a place of safety for the 353 survivors.
“But it has also been incredibly shaming to once again be in a situation where European states and, by extension, maritime authorities, deny or delay providing highly vulnerable people a safe haven,” Ms Bowman said.
“Can you imagine a situation where you escape with your life by the only way you can – across the sea –before being rescued at the point you think you are dead, only to be told you are not welcome? That you brought this upon yourself? That you should go back to where you came from?
“I think the most heartbreaking thing for me during this stand-off has been seeing the resilience that people draw upon to keep going, as well as the hope and belief in the goodness of humanity despite it all – and then seeing that met with a cynical policy of exclusion, which denies European history, international obligation and the fundamental right to live with dignity.”
“We are here because we have to be. Because people are dying in the Mediterranean. There has been a concerted and shared political effort to address this current reality.
“Not in a way that positions human lives as an overwhelming tide, polarising public opinion for political gain; but in a way that supports a highly manageable, predictable and reliable mechanism for saving and disembarking those rescued at sea.”
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