These rescuers want to save refugees fleeing Libya by sea. But they’re trapped on shore by red tape


‘It’s a kind of weaponization of the system to detain the ships,’ says rescuer Daniel Bebawi. From a distance, the vessels bobbing in the azure waters off the port of Augusta, Sicily, present a comforting tableau. Sunshine bounces off the waves as the plume of smoke rising from the snow-capped Mount Etna scatters in the wind. But in this small port, the latest chapter of Europe’s realpolitik approach to migration is playing out with deadly consequences. Among the vessels idling in Augusta, including two ships upon which rescued migrants are quarantined for COVID-19, is Sea-Watch 3. The ship, part of a German NGO, returned to the port in early March with its crew of 14, after a rescue mission to save 363 migrants in the sea between Sicily and Libya.

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