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Three refugee rescue organisations to take legal action against Italy for ‘unlawfully’ detaining their rescue ships

THREE refugee rescue organisations announced today that they are taking legal action against the Italian authorities for the unlawful detention of their rescue ships.

SOS Humanity, Sea-Watch and Sea-Eye released a joint statement today blasting the authorities’ reasoning for keeping their ships in port for a total of 100 days.

The Humanity 1 and Sea-Watch 5 have are being kept in port for 20 days each, while the Sea-Eye 4 is being held for 60 days.

The crews of the three ships rescued a total of 390 people in the central Mediterranean last week, but the authorities allege their crews were uncooperative with the Libyan coastguard.

“Each of the three current detentions is based on false accusations and unlawful demands,” reads the organisations’ joint statement.

“The Italian authorities falsely refer to uncooperative behaviour by the ships’ crews towards the so-called Libyan coastguard.

“Yet all detentions were preceded by attempts by the  coastguard to force people in distress at sea back to Libya, in violation of international law.

“In two cases — Humanity 1 and Sea-Eye 4 — the crews were threatened [by the Libyan coastguards] with weapons. A 17-year-old boy died on board the Sea-Watch 5 after all coastal states refused a medical evacuation.”

Italy’s top court ruled last month that returning people rescued at sea to Libya is illegal, and thereby, the rescuers contend, cooperating with the Libyan coastguard is also unlawful.

Sea-Watch spokeswoman Giulia Messmer said: “100 days of detention are 100 of injustice.

“While Italy is escalating its obstruction of civil sea rescue in violation of international law, over 270 people have already drowned in the Mediterranean this year alone.”

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