After the death of over 90 refugees who, within 24 hours, drowned in sea accidents off the Libyan coast, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), has expressed his dismay at the situation in the Mediterranean.
“The death of so many people within only a few hours is terrible. The appalling suffering and pointless deaths in the Mediterranean must be ended, once and for all,” Bedford-Strohm writes on his Facebook page.
Beforehand, the EKD Council chair had held a video meeting with the Italian transport minister Paola De Micheli in which he advocated for the release of the rescue ship „Sea-Watch 4 – powered by United4Rescue“, currently detained in the port of Palermo. The meeting on Thursday evening was also attended by Giovanni Pettorino, commanding officer of the Italian coastguard, and Paolo Naso, coordinator of the refugee programme of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy. During the discussion Bedford-Strohm expressed his incomprehension that, in spite of the manifest emergency on the Mediterranean, the ship cannot leave the harbour. “That has been stopped so far mainly by legal issues. I regret that they have been accorded more importance than the urgent need to give humanitarian assistance,” he said. At the same time, he underlined that the constructive efforts to release the ship were continuing: “We will stay on the ball so that Sea-Watch 4 can again fulfil its purpose: saving lives,” Bedford-Strohm writes.
The Sea-Watch 4, which was bought in early 2020 with donations from the church-initiated coalition United4Rescue and was equipped as a rescue ship, has been prevented from leaving the port of Palermo since its first rescue mission, during which it saved 353 migrants from distress at sea.
Hanover, 13 November 2020
EKD Press Office