At 9:20 a.m. on Saturday 11 November, EMERGENCY’s search and rescue ship Life Support completed disembarkation in Brindisi of the 118 people it had rescued in two separate operations in the international waters of the Central Mediterranean.
The rescued people are finally safe on land after more than 48 hours of navigation in rough seas to reach the Place of Safety (POS) assigned to Life Support at the end of the two rescues.
“All the rescued people are well, they are certainly exhausted by the journey. Among them there are some very sensitive cases of people who have suffered violence and torture in Libya that we hope will be taken care of by the local authorities,” explains Emanuele Nannini, Head of Mission. “The disembarkation operations went very well thanks to the cooperation with the Harbour Master’s Office, USMAF [Offices of Maritime, Air and Border Health] and all the local authorities. In the coming days, Life Support will prepare for its next mission, which we hope will begin in the middle of next week.”
The two boats were fragile, overloaded and unsuitable for the Mediterranean crossing, especially in the given weather conditions; they had departed Benghazi, Libya, and been at sea for 48 and 72 hours respectively before Life Support came to their aid.
“I am from Tigray, Ethiopia. I fled my country because of the war,” says F. L., a 21-year-old man. “For more than a year in my region there has been an obligation for at least one family member, including women, to enlist, otherwise you are killed. Only my mother and I are left in my family, so she told me to leave before the militia came looking for me. I first escaped to Addis Ababa, but there I could not study or work because if they found out I was from Tigray they would imprison me and send me back. So I fled to Sudan and then to Libya, where I spent eight months in prison. Sometimes they would hang us by our feet and beat us with pipes, calling our families so they would hear our screams and send the ransom money faster. My mother had to sell her flat to free me. I just want to get to Europe and live a life of dignity and freedom.”
“I left Syria in 2017, life was very difficult and I could not work,” explains A. N., a 25-year-old Syrian man. “There is a lot of instability in Syria, it is really dangerous, there is war. You can be kidnapped or killed at any time, for no reason. So I left, first to Sudan and then to Lebanon, to look for a better life, but I couldn’t make a living because of the economic conditions. I worked for the Red Cross and Red Crescent, it was a job I was very passionate about but I had to leave Lebanon because of the economic crisis that has affected the country in recent years. So I went to Libya, but there I was discriminated against every day because I was Syrian. So I made an extreme decision: to leave by boat for Europe. The second time I tried I succeeded, thanks to you. In Europe, I hope to be able to work again in the humanitarian field. That is my biggest dream.”
Among the 118 people rescued are four unaccompanied children. They come from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt and Palestine: countries in crisis conditions, including wars, environmental and climatic disasters, and serious political instability.
“From the perspective on the deck of Life Support, the agreement signed by Italy and Albania seems even more cruel and senseless,” comments EMERGENCY President Rossella Miccio. “We have already had so much proof that outsourcing borders accomplishes nothing: we have seen it with Turkey, with Libya, it’s being tried with Tunisia, now this latest obscure agreement with Albania. We think that instead of continually attacking the right to seek asylum, which is a cornerstone of Italian and European culture, we should commit ourselves and use resources to guarantee safe legal routes and coordinated European rescue missions, and above all to guarantee a dignified welcome to people fleeing war and poverty and coming to Europe.”
With this landing, EMERGENCY’s search and rescue ship concludes its fourteenth mission in the Central Mediterranean. At sea since December 2022, Life Support has rescued 1,198 people so far.