SOS Humanity takes legal action against the Italian government

Viele Menschen an Deck der Humaity 1 im Hafen
Photo: Max Cavallari / SOS Humanity

Berlin, 6 November 2022.

SOS Humanity is taking legal action against an Italian government decree and the fact that 35 survivors on board Humanity 1 are not allowed to go ashore. This was announced by the civil search and rescue organisation for Monday. The organisation’s rescue vessel, the Humanity 1, had been ordered to enter the Sicilian port of Catania on Saturday evening. 144 people previously rescued from distress at sea were allowed to go ashore. However, the authorities refused to allow 35 of the 179 survivors on board the Humanity 1 to disembark. They also asked the captain to leave the port again with the 35 survivors on board, which he refused on Sunday, citing maritime law: “It is my duty to complete the rescue of people in distress by disembarking all survivors in the port of Catania as a safe place. I cannot leave the port until all survivors rescued from distress at sea have disembarked.”

On 4 November, after 13 days of waiting for a place of safety for 179 rescued people on board, the rescue vessel Humanity 1 received a decree signed by Italian Ministers of Interior Matteo Piantedosi, Defense Guido Crosetti and Infrastructure and Mobility Matteo Salvini. The decree prohibits the Humanity 1 from stopping in Italian territorial waters longer than is “necessary for rescue and assistance operations for people in emergency conditions and in precarious health conditions.” It is announced that all remaining persons must leave territorial waters. The Humanity 1 was not assigned a place of safety for the survivors, as required by international maritime law.

On the night of 5 to 6 November, 144 survivors on board the Humanity 1 were selected by representatives of the Ministry of Health, among others, to be allowed to go ashore. “The selection took place under arbitrary and inadequate conditions,” reports Till Rummenhohl, Head of Operations. 36 of the survivors were classified by the authorities as “healthy” and had to remain on board. After being told that they were not allowed to disembark, one of them lost consciousness, collapsed, and had to be picked up by an ambulance. Since then, 35 survivors remain on board the Humanity 1.

Mirka Schäfer, Advocacy officer of SOS Humanity: “Both the decree and the prevention of the disembarkation of 35 survivors from Humanity 1 violate international and Italian law.” SOS Humanity is now appealing to the Administrative Regional Tribunal in Rome against the decree. “Under international law, a search and rescue operation is concluded with the disembarkation of the survivors in a place of safety. It is unlawful to only allow a selected few of the survivors to disembark. Furthermore, to reject all the others outside the national territorial waters constitutes a form of collective refoulement and thus violates both the European Convention on Human Rights and the non-refoulement principle of the Geneva Refugee Convention.” Schäfer judges.

SOS Humanity also announces that it will initiate a fast-track proceeding in front of the civil court in Catania to ensure that the right of the protection seekers on board the Humanity 1 is guaranteed to access a formal asylum procedure on land as a matter of urgency. SOS Humanity demands that all 35 survivors must be allowed to disembark the ship immediately.

The aforementioned decree of the Italian government is available here as a PDF.

Your contact person:

Wasil Schauseil, press contact SOS Humanity, press@sos-humanity.org, +49 (0)176 552 506 54

Photo credits: Max Callavari / SOS Humanity

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