The first appearance on the “Sea Watch 3” Pia Klemp has imagined otherwise. The new ship of the Berlin-based non-governmental organization has only been on the Mediterranean since November 2, it is larger than the previous ones and can also take people in distress on board. Everything is quiet for the first few days. But then there is a dramatic incident that ends the mission once. Pia Klemp, the captain and her crew are now stuck in the port of Pozzallo, in the far southeast of Sicily.
For the time being, the ship cannot run, the Italian authorities investigate against unknown, because it came to the death in the rescue operation. On Wednesday evening, Klemp was interviewed by the local police and on Thursday two more crew members. 59 people brought the “Sea Watch 3” to Sicily, they also had a dead child on board. In the telephone conversation with this newspaper, Pia Klemp with her voice still shaking as she tells how they tried to revive the two-year-old boy from Nigeria.
The 34-year-old from Bonn is not on a dangerous mission for the first time, she has been sailing at sea for years. In the summer she commanded the “Iuventa”, a ship of the organization “youth rescues”, which later confiscated the Italian police. The help came too late, even the experienced medical team on board could not save the boy. “That should not have happened,” says Pia Klemp, “and most of all, it should not have happened.” – Quelle: https://www.berliner-zeitung.de/28818944 ©2017
In the early morning hours of 6 November, a dinghy completely overloaded with human beings makes an emergency call, driving about 30 nautical miles north of Tripoli in international waters. A French warship is nearby, as well as an Italian military helicopter, the Sea Watch 3 is not far away. It is mandated by the Maritime Rescue Center (MRCC) in Rome, which coordinates such operations in the central Mediterranean, to rescue the shipwrecked. It has to be fast, mostly the refugees can not swim.
From the south, a ship approaches the Libyan Coast Guard. According to Klemp, the Libyans hinder the rescue effort massively. Many people panic into the water. All attempts to establish radio contact with the Libyan ship failed, says Pia Klemp. The situation gets out of control, as evidenced by video footage and photos that Sea Watch has made public. You can see there, how the Libyan ship almost overfires the dinghy, how it turns off later, while a shipwrecked still clings to the outside wall on a rope ladder. On board are 45 people, they face an uncertain fate. Tens of thousands are being held in camps in inhumane conditions in Libya, tortured and treated like slaves, as another new UN report shows.
Sea Watch makes serious allegations against the Libyan side. “Their whole behavior was clearly not geared to saving people,” says Pia Klemp. “They have violated all the rules that apply in emergency situations, violated.” A total of five people, four more dead will later bring the “Aquarius”, a ship of the organization SOS Méditerranée, to Italy. The Libyan authorities now blame the German NGO for the events, it is statement against statement, the footage but speaks for the representation of “Sea Watch”.
It’s not the first incident of its kind. Over the past few months, clashes with the Coast Guard have continued over the past few months since it tried to stop the NGO from rescuing castaways. It also brings refugees back much more often. With so many people crossing the Mediterranean to Italy in the first half of the year, the government acted in Rome. It decided on a joint military operation with Libya and demanded that the NGO sign a code of conduct. Sea Watch has now signed him, but only after it has been improved in some points. “We wanted to send out a signal that we are ready to cooperate,” says Axel Grafmanns, the CEO of Sea Watch.
During the summer, almost all organizations stopped their operations for some time because they felt threatened. In many European countries they are accused of operating a “shuttle service” across the sea and playing into the hands of the smugglers. The Libyan government, which controls only part of the civil war-torn country, also declared an area of more than 70 nautical miles off its own territorial waters to be in the so-called Save-and-Rescue zone (SAR zone) and threatened everyone there invade, by force of arms.
The number of boat people has declined in recent months. Nearly 112,000 people crossed the sea this year until the beginning of November, compared with nearly 160,000 a year earlier. There are persistent rumors that militias in western Libya, who are also financing human smuggling of their weapons, are being paid by the EU to stop their dirty business. Recently, however, dared more people again the dangerous crossing. At present, six organizations are working again, and the two ships of the Regensburg-based Sea Eye are on their way. They do not drive into the SAR zone though. “We believe that we are too endangered there,” says her spokesman Hans-Peter Buschheuer. Sea Watch, on the other hand, considers the Libyan unilateral declaration as non-binding and goes into the waters. “The unilateral statement violates international law,” says Grafmanns.
The clash this week also occurred there, far outside of the actual Libyan territorial waters. “This is all very bitter and sad,” says Pia Klemp. How long the “Sea Watch 3” must remain in the port of Pozzallo, she does not know, the Italian authorities have left that open. She hopes, despite everything, that they can run out soon.