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Italy diverts civil fleet ships from Search and Rescue zones

Italian authorities; Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centres (MRCC) have began to divert civil fleet ships from Search and Rescue (SAR) zones, mandating lengthy journeys to an assigned port of disembarkation that force people to travel for hours more at sea, with the risk of worsening weather.

On January 26th 2023, the Italian government designated the disembarkation of the 237 survivors aboard the Geo Barents at Spezia. This required three further days of travel at sea, diverting the rescue ship away from the SAR zone and delaying its return to carry out life-saving work at sea.

They argue that there is a lack of capacity for new arrivals in the South. This is untrue: unaccompanied minors arriving in La Spezia on the Geo Barents were then sent by coach to the southern town of Foggia, an eight-hour drive away. This new policy of diversion and delay reduces the aid available in the Mediterranean. The result? More pushbacks. More violence. More deaths. More inhumanity.

How does it work?

When the Italian MRCC assigns a port of disembarkation to a civil fleet ship, it is now (as of a decree from December) required to go there without delay to complete the rescue operation.

So, when the assigned port of safety (POS) is at a significant distance from the SAR zone, the ship is now required to leave the SAR zone for many days (to get to the POS and back to the SAR zone). The combination of this decree with the practice of assigning a distant POC results in significant disruption to the Civilian fleet.

This practice has been repeated in the past few months:

https://twitter.com/MSF_Sea/status/1611826244546347008

Image: https://thecivilfleet.wordpress.com/2023/01/29/rescuers-disembark-people-the-italian-government-would-have-left-to-drown/

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