The medical charity stated that the ship that rescued hundreds of immigrants and refugees was detained in June because of political motives.
The medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urged Italian authorities to release a rescue boat, claiming that the detention was politically motivated.
MSF said in a statement on Sunday that the research ship Geo Barents of MSF was in administrative detention after an inspection in Port Augusta, Sicily, on July 2 and found 22 “deficiencies”.
The Italian Coast Guard stated that there are 10 flagged issues that need to detain the ship because they endanger the safety of the crew and any passengers.
They pointed out that the ship had life-saving equipment for 83 people.
A MSF spokesperson told Reuters that earlier, the ship rescued more than 400 people from the vulnerable ship during a back-to-back operation in June, including dozens of unaccompanied children.
Many people come from countries experiencing conflict, including Syria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, and Mali.
Médecins Sans Frontières expressed its willingness to comply with the authorities’ requirements and make all “necessary adjustments”, but warned that inspections of its ships may “represent an opportunity for the authorities to pursue political goals under the guise of administrative procedures.
The charity described the Coast Guard’s safety claims as “a dishonest interpretation of maritime law.”
MSF emphasized that since 2019, Italian authorities have seized NGO ships 13 times.
According to MSF, there are currently four people detained and “almost no life-saving activities are carried out in the central Mediterranean.”
The UN report puts the blame on the EU
Thousands of immigrants and refugees step onto the border every year. They often set off from Libya on small inflatable boats, hoping to reach Europe.
According to data from the United Nations immigration agency, so far this year, 866 deaths have been recorded in the Mediterranean. Most of them, 723, died on the central Mediterranean route operated by MSF ships.
A United Nations report in May stated that the EU and its 27 member states should be partly responsible for the death toll because they played a role in hindering humanitarian relief efforts.
According to the report, although the EU has reduced its official search and rescue operations, governments have prevented humanitarian agencies from rescuing people in distress by arresting ships that have been patrolling in the central Mediterranean for many years, targeting administrative and criminal proceedings. .
The Italian Coast Guard said on Saturday that since the beginning of 2021, it has inspected 681 foreign ships of different types calling at Italian ports and 55 of them have been under administrative detention.
The Open Arms rescue ship operated by a Spanish charity was released at the end of last month after being held in Sicily for more than two months.
Duccio Staderini, MSF search and rescue representative, said: “A long-term and thorough inspection of NGO ships in Italian ports was conducted to detect irregularities and prevent the ships from returning to the sea to save lives.”
“We are faced with a grim reality: Although humanitarian NGO ships have been detained, there is still unnecessary loss of life in the Mediterranean.”