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Rescuers Penalized For Saving Lives At The World’s Deadliest Border

Above photo: Rescue ship, The Louise Michel. By Chris Grodotzki.

The Sea Watch 4 takes on 150 more refugees and continues to wait for Europe to provide it with a port to disembark the rescued.

Humanitarian organizations are being penalized for fulfilling responsibilities abandoned by European governments at the world’s deadliest border, activists have warned after an eventful weekend in the Mediterranean.

Late on Friday, the Louise Michel rescue ship was alerted by a charity reconnaissance plane Moonbird to a boat carrying 130 refugees in distress inside Malta’s search-and-rescue zone.

The ship, funded by street artist Banksy and run by a seasoned team of rescuers, had already picked up 89 people in previous operations and so, unable to bring everyone on board, the crew waited for hours into Saturday for Malta or Italy to assist.

“A crew of 10 is now onboard a 30m ship with 219 survivors,” Lousie Michel tweeted on Saturday afternoon. “[Thirty-three] are still on a life raft and one deceased person in a body bag.”

The crew later tweeted: “Louise Michel is unable to move, she is no longer the master of her maneuver due to her overcrowded deck and a life raft deployed at her side, but above all due to Europe ignoring our emergency calls for immediate assistance.

“The responsible authorities remain unresponsive.”

Soon the civilian rescue ships Mare Jonio, Astral, and Sea Watch 4, which was already carrying 201 survivors and waiting near the Italian island of Sicily, headed to the Louise Michel’s position.

At about 5 pm the Italian coastguard finally reached the beleaguered ship and evacuated 49 of the most vulnerable people, as well as the body.

By 8.45 pm the Sea Watch 4 had transferred 150 people from the Louise Michel, bringing its total number of refugees onboard to 350.

“The crew and survivors on board the Sea Watch 4 are totally exhausted,” Doctors Without Borders (MSF) communications manager Hannah Bowman told The Civil Fleet from the ship today.

“Some of the people who we rescued in the central Mediterranean have been on board since our first rescue operation last Saturday.”

“We are providing an emergency response where states are failing to do so. We’re being penalized by filling the gap EU governments have left at the world’s deadliest maritime border,” Ms. Bowman said.

“They are abandoning people to drown with policies of non-assistance. Yet, somehow, humanitarian organizations are made the bad guys.

“A rescue is only complete when the survivors are taken to a place of safety. Yet, once again, people trying to escape Libya are being held in a state of emergency, and this is completely inhumane.

“Some of the people we have on board are being treated by MSF medics for fuel burns and physical trauma sustained while trying to cross [the Mediterranean]. And others tell us they watched their companions drown during the journey.

“There are now real concerns for the psychological wellbeing of those we have on board, who have already endured enough.

“They must be allowed to disembark.”

The Sea Watch 4’s medical project co-ordinator Barbara Deck told The Civil Fleet that the people evacuated from the Louise Michel by the Italian coastguard on Saturday included several heavily pregnant women.

“The remaining 150 survivors brought on board the Sea Watch 4 were weak, seasick, hypothermic and dehydrated upon embarkation,” Ms. Deck said.

“Mentally and physically exhausted after days at sea in rubber boats and then in either life-rafts or on the exposed deck of the small rescue ship, many required emergency fuel showers, with more than 20 people presenting with chemical burns caused by exposure to gasoline mixed with saltwater in prolonged contact with their skin.

“MSF treated wounds and traumatic injuries throughout the night with medical consultations also manifesting a number of patients scared by marks of torture they report in Libya.

“As such, the overall health conditions of those most recently recovered is stable but highly stressed.”

Neeske Beckmann, Sea Watch’s head of mission on the Moonbird reconnaissance plane, said she was outraged by what happened on Saturday.

“European states are heavily reliant on civilian actors in such situations to prevent massive drownings while at the same time harassing and criminalizing us,” Ms. Beckmann told The Civil Fleet.

“They chain our ships in ports for ridiculous reasons so that we can’t save more lives. They even try to prevent our aircraft from flying and witnessing such grave human rights violations.

“When we find boats with our aircraft and report them to the authorities, they delay rescues. They try to organize illegal deportations. They delay interventions for so long until it is too late. And people die.

“What is happening here is the designated killing of people at Europe’s doorstep. Conveniently for the EU, they don’t have to shoot people. They only have to wait and not act and let the sea do the dirty work for them.”

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