Still stranded at sea after 7 days despite European cities opening their ports

“In Libya, militias forced me to work 12 hours a day without interruption. They threatened me by pointing weapons at me while I was working. At the end of the day they often didn’t feed me. They killed one of my friends in front of me. He was killed because one morning he couldn’t get up to go to work.”

This is the story of a 16-year old from Guinea, one of the 47 on board the rescue vessel Sea Watch 3, seven days after it was shipwrecked off the Libyan coast. The ship remains stranded about 1.4 miles from the port of Syracuse as Italian authorities refuse to allow disembarkation of passengers.

The NGO said in a statement that various cities had offered a port of safety, including the mayor of Syracuse who declared the city’s port open, but Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was prohibiting the ship’s entry “without justification”.

It said the refusal to enter port “was notified and that the ship remained stuck at anchor without being “able to allow due assistance on land to vulnerable people fleeing Libya and tried by days on the high seas”.

Sea-Watch said it filed a report with Catania’s prosecutor. “The prosecutor, as required by law, asks for the immediate disembarkation of the 13 minors on board, emphasising that in this prolonged condition of discomfort, their rights are evaded”.

Sea-Watch said the other 34 people on board faced long periods of arbitrary detention in Libyan prisons, in which they suffered daily torture, abuse, physical and psychological violence.

“After seven days on the ship, to go ahead with the landing of only a part of the shipwrecked people would be traumatic for those who would be forced to remain on board… People, whose physical and psychological state is at stake, immediately need assistance. Therefore we strongly ask for the immediate disembarkation of all shipwrecked people,” the NGO said.

Saying this case could have set an example for European solidarity after a dark week when at least 170 people went missing, Sea-Watch chairman Johannes Bayer thanked the cities of Syracuse, Palermo, Naples, Barcelona and Berlin among others to offer help. “This is the Europe we want to live in, a Europe of solidarity,” he added.

Yet, the fate of those still on board the ship is as yet undetermined as they enter a second week at sea in rough weather.

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