Taranto, 24.07.23 – The disembarkation of the 171 people rescued on 20 July by EMERGENCY’s search and rescue ship Life Support ended this morning at the port of Taranto at 11:20 a.m. They had been rescued in four different operations. Thirteen rescued people who were in a fragile condition disembarked first in Lampedusa.

The rescued people came from Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Guinea, Egypt, Eritrea, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Syria and Sudan. Among those who disembarked in Taranto, there are 20 women and 51 children, 46 of whom are unaccompanied. Many of the rescued people speak of suffering severe violence and human rights abuses in Tunisia and Libya.

“I am from Sierra Leone. In 2020 the government killed many members of my family because they were political opponents. I had to flee to Morocco to save myself,” says a boy rescued by Life Support. “I spent a lot of time in the desert and from there I went to Libya where they killed many of my friends. In Libya there is no real government and there are no rights for migrants, they can kill you in the street and nobody cares. I managed to escape to Tunisia to try to reach Europe. But Tunisia was not a good place for me either. There is a lot of racism now. In Sfax, Tunisians often attacked us black Africans. They would come to the houses where we lived and steal our money, our phones; they would beat us for hours if we didn’t have money. I still have many scars on my body.”

“I left Cameroon in 2021 alone, leaving behind friends and family because in the north of the country there is a lot of violence and abuse,” says a woman rescued by EMERGENCY’s ship. “It is mainly the students and teachers who are attacked, it was not possible for me to have an education there. I left to reach Europe, the journey took a long time and was very difficult. To get to Tunisia I had to pass through the desert in Algeria: on the way I was raped by eight Algerian men, the ones I had paid to take me to Tunisia. This happens to many women who undertake this journey. I spent several months in Tunisia to collect the money to pay for the sea voyage, during this time I was never able to have medical checks because I was undocumented. Only now on the ship was I able to take a pregnancy test and I found out I was three months pregnant. I hope to receive further medical and psychological support once I arrive in Italy.”

While Life Support embarked on its ninth rescue mission, a Memorandum of Understanding between the European Union and Tunisia was signed. “In our interventions we have rescued people who tell of having suffered violations and abuses in Tunisia,” says Life Support Mission Coordinator Carlo Maisano. “This shameful and damaging agreement echoes what was done in Libya. Instead of managing migration processes, Europe once again chooses to outsource responsibility to an insecure and unstable country. With this choice, it makes itself culpable for further human rights violations.”

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