179 survivors on board Humanity 1 – SOS Humanity urgently calls for a place of safety
For more than a week, the rescue ship Humanity 1 has been waiting for a place of safety for 179 people rescued from distress at sea in the Central Mediterranean. After eight days and eleven requests for a place of safety, the relevant state authorities in Malta and Italy have still not given a positive response to the urgent request for the disembarkation of all survivors. Meanwhile, the medical situation on board is deteriorating. The more than 100 unaccompanied minors among the survivors are particularly suffering under the conditions.
Between October 22 and October 24, the rescue vessel Humanity 1 of the German non-governmental organisation SOS Humanity has conducted a total of three rescues, saving 180 people from distress at sea. After a medical evacuation of an unaccompanied minor on October 27, there are 179 survivors remaining on board. Among them are more than 100 unaccompanied minors and one seven-month-old baby. A flu-like infection is spreading on board the Humanity 1, causing high fever for some people. All Covid-19 tests of the affected were negative. Several of the survivors carry traces of violence they suffered on their journey, including wounds from gunshots and beatings.
In addition, the psychological condition of the survivors is worrying, as Luca, mental health specialist on board the Humanity 1, reports: “In their countries of origin, on the journey to Libya and at sea, some of the survivors witnessed the death of their fellow travellers or suffered extreme violence.” He also refers to the reports from survivors who were rescued from a heavily overcrowded rubber boat on October 24: “A lot of them had to watch friends or family members drown, falling off the rubber boat the night before their rescue. This is precisely why most of the minors on board show critical psychological conditions and clear consequences of the traumatic events they have experienced. Every day, their need to reach a secure place becomes more urgent: They need a place of safety now!”
The captain of Humanity 1 sent the first place of safety request to all relevant authorities on October 23, including the rescue coordination centres in Malta and Italy, immediately after the first rescue. Until October 31, a total of 11 requests were issued without having received any positive response. According to maritime law, a rescue is completed with the disembarkation of the people rescued in a safe place. Thus, SOS Humanity expects the relevant state authorities to assign the Humanity 1 – as well as the rescue vessels Ocean Viking and Geo Barents – a place of safety where all survivors can promptly disembark without further delay.
“It is unacceptable and against international law to leave survivors stranded at sea for over a week and prolong their suffering”, says Mirka Schäfer, Advocacy Officer of SOS Humanity. “The Humanity 1 kept all relevant authorities, including the rescue coordination centres in Italy and Malta, duly informed about all steps of the three search and rescue operations. However, the authorities have neither provided information nor coordinated or assigned us a place of safety. We are again witnessing how both the rule of law and humanity are going overboard at the European external border of the Central Mediterranean.”
A detailed chronology of the search and rescue operations and communication with the relevant authorities can be found here.
 §1.3.2 International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR), 1979; §3.1.9 Annex to the SAR Convention, 2004; IMO Resolution MSC.167(78), 2004
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Photo credits: Max Callavari / SOS Humanity