19 October 2018

The Mare Jonio arrives in Palermo

Mediterranea has completed its first mission and returned to Palermo. It is in a pit-stop to refuel and change over the crew before immediately returning to sea. “The outcome of these first days has been extremely positive, our hunch was right”, confirmed Alessandra Sciurba, summing up the first 12 days of the Mare Jonio’s journey at sea.

Leoluca Orlando, Mayor of Palermo, pronounced that the whole city is with the ship. “Whenever anyone asks me how many migrants there are in Palermo, I always respond none. Everyone who arrived in Palermo is Palermitan!”
Erasmo Palazzotto, European MP and backer of Mediterranea, explained how this represents a challenge to European government. “We have seen for ourselves how the issue of sea rescues becomes a bureaucratic question, how it depends on whether the line of the SAR zone is one mile up or one mile down. In a context like this, people’s lives don’t mean anything anymore, the people on the vessel don’t have any worth.”

The intervention of Giorgia Linardi of Sea Watch recalled how rescue is an automatic act, almost mechanical. “I strongly believe that whoever finds themselves in front of someone who looks you in the eyes with widen pupils and is about to be swalloed by the sea, holds out a hand, with an automatic gesture of the muscles. Those who govern us do not know this experience. You don’t discuss policy issues at sea, that’s done on dry land. At sea you rescue and you take people to a port of safety”, she concluded.

Marta, a 26-year-old graduate and activist in Rome who supports migrants through legal support to those struggling for a dignified life, also spoke. Being on the Mediterranea ship was important not only in order to save others but also for ourselves. “We are going out to sea to save ourselves from the catastrophe unraveling before our very eyes each day.” The wave of support for Mediterranea has generated €150,000 through crowdfunding (as of October 16th). Luca Casarini explained what happened on the night of October 12th, when the ship received a messages from Navtext, indicating a rubber boat in trouble with 70 people on board, in Maltese waters. After a volley of responsibility between Rome and Valletta, and the insistence of the Mare Jonio, the Italian Coast Guard eventually intervened and brought the boat and its passengers to Lampedusa. “When we received the message that the 70 people had been rescued, the sea laughed with us.”

“The risk of not going ahead with this project was greater than that of doing so” said Claudio Arestivo of Moltivolti, Palermo. “Protecting the rights of others is not left or eight, Catholic or Christian – it’s simply human.” The Consul of Culture for the city of Palermo, Outtara Ibrahima Kobena, spoke, as did Evelina Santangelo, a writer from the Corpi collective.

Giulia Antonelli
Borderline Europe

Project “OpenEurope” – Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation by Richard Braude

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