A charity rescue vessel banned from entering Italian waters warned on Friday of an impending health emergency on board, appealing for water to reduce the risk of disease.
Since June 2018, when Italy's populist government took office and started turning away nongovernmental organization (NGO) rescue ships, migrants saved at sea have repeatedly been trapped in intra-EU disputes about where they should be allowed to land. Italy, as one the frontline countries, continues to protest the lack of support from the EU in facing migratory inflows via the Mediterranean. In June, eight of the 28 EU countries, including France and Germany, signaled clear intentions of moving forward with a new system called a "solidarity mechanism." However, they have failed to persuade Italy to allow rescue ships to dock at its ports.
The charity Mediterranean Saving Humans said it sent a "new urgent request" for a safe port for its Mare Jonio ship, "due to the risk of a health and sanitary emergency." Sixty-four vulnerable people, including women and children, disembarked on Thursday, leaving 34 migrants on board. Particularly worrying was a "lack of water for hygienic and other onboard needs," the NGO said in a statement. "We stress that this emergency obviously cannot be solved by simply sending bottles of water." "The risk of disease is exacerbated by the lack of water, with possible health consequences for the rescued and the crew."
Due to the lack of a common response to migration inflows from northern Africa via the Mediterranean, migrants have been facing the same unwelcoming approach from EU countries. So far, every standoff about migrants rescued from the Mediterranean takes weeks to resolve, revealing the limits of EU tolerance and its inherent deficiencies in promptly resolving dire situations. Instead, they get caught up in intra-EU struggles on what to do with migrants saved at sea, while effectively dashing their European dreams.
Amid a divided response to the Mediterranean migrant rescue crisis, EU countries have long failed to create a more permanent EU redistribution arrangement to prevent migrant tragedies at sea. The Mediterranean Sea continues to be a deadly route, as six people died daily while attempting to reach European shores in 2018. In its report, "Desperate Journeys," the U.N. refugee agency said, "An estimated 2,275 people died or went missing crossing the Mediterranean in 2018, despite a major drop in the number of arrivals reaching European shores." The death rate among migrants crossing the sea from Libya to Italy or Malta more than doubled last year as naval search and rescue missions were reduced.