IUVENTA Welcome back

Rome (NEV), 4 July 2018 – “Lo sguardo dalle frontiere” (A Look from the Border) is written by operators of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) for Mediterranean Hope (MH) – the Refugee and Migrant Programme. This week’s “Sguardo” (Look) comes from Lampedusa and is described by Alberto Mallardo.

The Iuventa returns to Lampedusa. Almost a year has passed since the night when the boat operated by the German Jugend Rettet organisation entered the port of Lampedusa escorted by two patrol boats of the Coast Guard. The police was there waiting to seize it.

We were also waiting on the commercial pier that night, however, we were there to welcome and embrace the rescuers and those saved. Initial reports stated that the vessel was undergoing a routine check. The morning after it should have left in a south-westerly direction to continue its search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. At noon, the blinding light hurts the eyes of the crew and the fatigue becomes unbearable. While the morning newspapers were giving coverage to the event, in the Lampedusa Harbour Office, Pia and Kathrin, respectively captain and head of mission of Jugend Rettet, were being questioned.

In those chaotic moments, between statements and denials, we begin to understand the scope of the accusations and in the early afternoon the ship, which between 2016 and 2017 saved more than 14,000 people, was stopped on the orders of the Prosecutor’s office of Trapani following an investigation, against unknown persons, for aiding illegal immigration. The Iuventa will be the first NGO ship to be stopped by Italian authorities.

When the sun begins to set and the night quickly springs to life, the crew leaves the island and with it the Iuventa. One year after the opening of the investigation, despite the fact that the vessel is still stopped in the port of Trapani, no connection with traffickers has been uncovered. While hundreds of people continue to die at sea, the campaign to criminalise those who save lives at sea becomes even more powerful.

As Mediterranean Hope, together with the Parish of San Gerlando and the Forum Lampedusa Solidale, we decided to symbolically bring back the Iuventa ship to the place where its activity was interrupted. On Saturday 7 July, the eve of the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’s historic visit to Lampedusa, in the presence of the director Michele Cinque, we will screen the documentary film “Iuventa” produced by Lazy Film with RAI Cinema, co-production with Sunday Films and ZDF/3Sat, and in association with Bright Frame. The documentary followed the protagonists of the German NGO for over a year, from the first mission in the Mediterranean to the seizing of the ship in the port of Lampedusa.

“The Iuventa was a symbol of the vital NGO movement, in a period when no one fights anymore,” says Michele Cinque in a recent interview. “We have to wake up our consciences so that what has happened does not repeat itself. We believe that today more than ever it is necessary to ask ourselves: “Where is your brother? Who is responsible for this blood?”

On this occasion, we will also wear a red shirt, joining in Libera’s request to raise public awareness on a reception that combines safety and solidarity.