Mediterranea: „The pandemic requires us to freeze operational activity. An obligatory choice even if the departures have started again“. Ocean Viking, Sea watch and Open Arms are also blocked in port.

The departures of migrants from the African coast have resumed but the Mediterranean is destined to remain without help for who knows how long. The coronavirus also stops the humanitarian ships and, one after the other, the NGOs reluctantly communicate the suspension of missions.

„An inevitable and difficult communication – says Mediterranea, who also in the last weeks had finally seen the two ships, Jonian Sea and Alex, seized for months by the security decree – we were ready to leave again with the tenacity and determination of always: ready the ships, ready the crews. But the development of the pandemic and the sacrosanct measures taken to try to contain the contagion and to try to save the most fragile and exposed people, now requires us to freeze the operational activity at sea. The effects of this forced choice make us suffer because at sea there are those who risk death every day“. Mediterranea relies on the willingness of the civil ships that continue to operate to provide rescue at sea. „We will give them every possible support“.

At the moment also the ships of Sea Watch and Sos Mediterranée and Doctors Without Borders remain in port after the last two migrant landings in Pozzallo and Messina. The Spanish Open Arms has also been stationary for about twenty days for repairs. „We are trying to figure out how we can return to sea safely for all. Unfortunately, we are needed at sea despite the coronavirus,“ says spokeswoman Veronica Alfonsi.

However, the departures from Africa do not stop. The Alarm phone switchboard in recent days has reported several boats in difficulty in the Libyan and Maltese SAR area. And they are worried about the autonomous landings on the island of Lampedusa where 150 people have arrived in the last week. Mayor Salvatore Martello immediately ordered their quarantine in the hot spot but asked the Minister of the Interior Lamorgese for a protocol for their immediate transfer to the mainland due to the lack of the necessary measures to protect the population. In Africa too, hundreds of cases of coronavirus are now registered in the migrants‘ countries of origin and Libya has also declared a state of emergency for the epidemic.

At the moment the NGOs that have volunteers employed in medical and paramedical assistance services in the areas most affected by the territory are Médecins sans Frontières, whose president Claudia Lodesani has been working in Codogno for days. But also the ground platform of Mediterranea has made available its forces

original source (translated from Italian)

La Repubblica | 18.03.2020

Coronavirus, NGOs stop sea missions. Migrants without rescue

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