EMANUELE NANNINI, PROJECT COORDINATOR: “ASSIGNING A DISTANT PORT IS CRUELTY TO THE RESCUED PEOPLE.”
ROBERTO MACCARONI, SAR HEALTH OFFICER: “VICTIMS OF TORTURE, FORCED MARRIAGES, AND VIOLENCE IN LIBYA: THESE ARE THE HORROR STORIES WE HEAR ON BOARD.”
Marina di Carrara, 19 April 2023 – At 11.58 am, EMERGENCY’s search and rescue ship Life Support completed disembarkation at the Port of Marina di Carrara, Taliercio quay. The 55 people on board, rescued in the Central Mediterranean on 15 April, report terrifying stories.
“The assignment of the port of Marina di Carrara, as opposed to a Sicilian port, forced the rescued people on board and our crew to two and a half additional days of navigation, moreover in adverse sea weather conditions,” reports Emanuele Nannini, EMERGENCY’s Project Coordinator on board Life Support. “On board, the people were exhausted from years of travel, from Libya and the sea crossing. Assigning a distant port not only violates international conventions on the law of the sea, but is also cruelty to the rescued people: people who had the right to be brought ashore as soon as possible.”
The rescued people come from Bangladesh, Chad, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan: all countries marked by armed conflicts and humanitarian crises. On board the ten-metre boat, adrift and taking on water, were 46 men, three women and six children, three of whom were unaccompanied.
“In the Mediterranean, we are witnessing the real migration emergency: not the arrivals in Italy, but the people who die at sea, an average of one every four hours. It’s as if the Mediterranean were a war zone,” said Nannini after the rescue on 15 April. “We have just rescued 55 people, but we will never know how many others, in these hours, have been forcibly returned to Libya, or drowned in silence. At the end of rescue operations, an unidentified boat, presumably belonging to Libyan militias, approached us, waved us away and made intimidating manoeuvres towards our ship, showing us the Kalashnikovs and guns they had on board.”
“When we started the examinations of the rescued people on board, we immediately saw the real emergency: not the burns and wounds that they bore on their bodies, but the devastating experiences they had undergone along the migratory route,” commented Roberto Maccaroni, SAR Health Officer. “We rescued victims of torture, minors who had travelled for years alone, women fleeing forced marriages, young people who had tried nine times to escape from Libya but who were intercepted and brought back each time.”
“In Libya, I spent several months in prison,” recalls a 23-year-old Nigerian man. “I watched people die from beatings. There were no windows, they seldom took us outdoors and when it happened I was horrified: in the outside areas of the prison we only saw corpses piled up. They made me call my brother to ask for money. When I finally got out of there I was unrecognisable: my leg was broken, I couldn’t walk, I had been beaten on my genitals and I couldn’t urinate.”
“I am an orphan of both parents, and I left my country because it was at war,” says one of the unaccompanied children on board. “I was told Libya was a very easy passage to Europe. Instead, I stayed there for three years. I was imprisoned there, both by the militias and the traffickers. They wanted me to pay more money for the sea journey: they would undress me, hang me on a hook and torture me. Meanwhile they were filming me so that I would send the video to my family, but I had no one in the world to ask for money and help. That is why, when I saw the dinghy in which we were going to cross the sea, I was not afraid. I was only interested in leaving Libya. When we were without engines in the middle of the sea, completely adrift, everyone on board thought they were going to die and were anxious, but I was ready for any fate. It was enough for me to know that I was no longer in that cursed place.“
EMERGENCY’s Life Support concludes its fifth mission today. At sea since December 2022, it has rescued 619 people.