The 398 people rescued by the search and rescue organisation SOS Humanity, including 178 minors, can disembark from the rescue ship Humanity 1 in the port of Taranto in southern Italy as of today. After 18 requests and twelve days of waiting, the crew was finally assigned a place of safety for the people rescued from distress at sea on Monday night. After two more days of sailing to its destination, the Humanity 1 arrived in the bay off Taranto on Wednesday night.
“The weather took a turn for the worse on our two-day journey to our assigned port in Taranto,” reports Barbara, the volunteer doctor onboard the Humanity 1. “After more than two weeks on board in some cases, the survivors were exposed to strong winds and swells on deck, were freezing and seasick. The feverish infection continued to spread among the children and adults on board. Due to the lack of fresh water, we could not provide showers or wash clothes for days.”
There are still 398 people on the rescue ship who were rescued by the humanitarian aid organisation SOS Humanity in four rescues as they fled across the Central Mediterranean in unseaworthy boats. They come from 16 different countries, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Gambia, Lebanon, Mali, Nigeria, Sudan and Syria. Of the original 414 people rescued, three babies whose mothers could no longer breastfeed were evacuated due to the medical emergency with their families by Italian authorities. There are currently 55 children on board, about half of whom are sick. The 110 unaccompanied minors are also particularly vulnerable. Many of the survivors on board are not only physically but also psychologically unwell, the tension is great.
“From a psychological point of view, the rescued people are particularly vulnerable in this situation: they are in transit from a place they had to leave to one they do not know yet. This makes them feel very lonely,” explains Lisa, Mental Health Officer onboard the Humanity 1. “The psychological suffering has its roots in the circumstances the survivors faced in their home countries. On board they have reported death threats and kidnappings. Yet these people show an incredible level of hope and inner strength that impresses me.”
As the rescued people start disembarking today (Thursday), the first to leave the ship will be those in need of urgent medical treatment ashore, including one person with a broken arm, one with a gunshot wound, and one with intestinal bleeding.
“The precarious situation on the Humanity 1, which lasted for days, could have been avoided if the authorities had immediately assigned a place of safety for the survivors after the rescues, as required by maritime law,” says Mirka Schäfer, Human Rights Observer for SOS Humanity on board the rescue ship. “Moreover, once again, the authorities in question have failed to provide comprehensive information and swift coordination during the rescues, as is their duty.”
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Photo credits: Arez Ghaderi / SOS Humanity