L.M.: How does a typical day on the ship Aquarius, employed for rescue procedures in the Mediterranean area take place?
N.S.: The staff of the Aquarius includes the rescuers crew, the team of Médecins Sans Frontières, that takes care of the people rescued onboard, and the technical crew of the ship. Every three weeks the ship reaches Catania, where the harbor is used as a base for the refueling e for changing the crew. Once the ship leaves Catania, firstly we prepare the activities for the SAR area, then we head to Libya’s waters where we arrive after a couple of days and we begin the patrolling service. This one takes place 25 miles from the coasts, the patrolling area is established according to the zones where more events occur and the ones where we register the departure of the major number of boats, especially, at East and West of Tripoli. During the patrolling service, we carry out some lookout activities through binoculars and radars which allow us to identify the boats that need to be rescued. In most cases the Rescue Center (MRCC) of the Coast Guard’s Operation Center informs us about a boat to rescue, provides the instructions for heading to a specific area where carrying out the research and it manages the entire operation. Even when we identify a boat to rescue we must inform firstly the MRCC which provides the instructions to follow for the procedures. When we approach the boat, we prepare the rescue equipment, this is the real beginning of the rescue, which changes according to the kind of boat, the number of people, the weather conditions, etc. We try a first approach establishing a contact through a cultural mediator, then we provide life jackets to all passengers, then they are moved to the rescue’s rubber boats that lead to the Aquarius. The rescued people receive medical cares, water and food. In case of complicated and critical operations, for instance when we find sinking boats, we need specific techniques, procedures and equipment established during the activities of the Aquarius and the SOS Méditerrannée, thanks to the experience of the staff with a great level of efficiency specific for this kind of operations. Then it takes place the phase of the disembarkation to an harbor that is not the closest one, as many wrongly learned, but it is the safest one, since it must have specific standards according to the international, community and national regulations, so an Italian harbor.
L.M.: In the last few months, NGOs have been the primary issue inside the international and national press, because of the Government choices, the suspects of collusion with migrants traders, etc. In a Europe where populist rhetoric people strongly instrumentalize the migration issue, which is, according to you, the path that EU and European states should follow? Do you have any suggestions?
N.S.: The SAR events take place because these boats need to be rescued, the duty of providing assistance and adequate research and rescue services should be respected not only by captains of the ships, but even by the States. This is a great flaw of the EU States, they do not provide adequate institutional SAR structures in the areas where it is needed. Consequently, NGOs are morally obligated to act because it is necessary. The crucial political problems linked to the migration events cannot be solved disappointing the necessity of sea rescue. It is doubtless. Respecting the international, community and national regulations means not to accept policies concerning the repelling towards Libya.
L.M.: The mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, concerning EU, defined what is happening as “a genocide that will make us feel ashamed to be European”, a severe accusation, of course, but based on manifest factual data.
N.S.: Factual data that confirm the tragic number of deaths and missing people, the more lethal migration route in the world. And this happens at the gates of Europe. So, not to act is not acceptable.
L.M.: The tragic data provided by UN, more than 3000 deaths in 2017 in the Mediterranean area, make us think about the necessity to guarantee the safeguard of human rights to every person, regardless their origin country, but just because they are human being. Even more if we are talking about minors. Which are the data concerning this phenomenon?
N.S.: I confirm that the numbers of minors rescued increased in the past year and in most cases the data are astonishing. An example can be the rescue operation of the Aquarius of the last 12th of October when in 600 rescued people, more than 240 were minors, this demonstrates how tragic the situation is, since thinking about minors, children involved in such dangerous condition, this should impose much more the necessity and obligation to act in the most adequate way.