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Medecins Sans Frontieres says Mediterranean rescue mission blocked after ship seizure in Italy

According to Medecins Sans Frontieres, a Mediterranean rescue mission was blocked by Italian authorities. The ship utilized for more than 400 migrant rescues at sea over the past few weeks has been seized by Italian forces, a move that Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warned could endanger the lives of migrants in the Mediterranean. The organization called for the swift release of the rescue vessel named Geo Barents. According to MSF, the vessel was seized by authorities on administrative grounds in the port of Augusta, Sicily, on July 2. According to the Italian Coast Gaurd, the ship was taken into custody during a routine inspection of foreign ships docking in Italian ports. Upon searching the vessel, the Coast Gaurd claimed that the ship did not contain enough life-saving equipment on board, such as rafts and life belts.

According to the Coast Gaurd, this was grounds for detaining the vessel, however, the authorities allegedly found 22 issues overall during the inspection, 10 of which were grounds for the ship to be detained. MSF has stated that it is ready to make all of the necessary adjustments to ensure that the vessel is up to code with the Coast Guard’s standards. MSF’s search and rescue representative claimed that inspections of NGO vessels in Italian ports have been subject to unfair judgement and speculation in order to prevent the ships from returning to the sea to save migrant lives. Italy has recently borne the brunt of migrants landing on European shores, with over 10,400 arrivals in 2021.

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