A Lincoln man is among a group of migrant rescuers stuck on board a ship in the Mediterranean for a fifth day. He has said conditions are worsening and supplies are running low.
Jon Stone, chief engineer on board the Sea-Watch 3 off the coast of Sicily, was on his tenth mission to rescue migrants but his ship has been surrounded by officials.
The group cannot leave local waters after Italian authorities accused them of “assisting illegal immigration”.
As a former Royal Navy engineer with seven years of experience, Jon told The Lincolnite he wanted to use his skills to “make a change” when he heard about Sea-Watch.
The volunteer crew say they rescued 47 people from an inflatable boat on January 19 and were blocked when they dropped anchor five days ago.
Italian minister Matteo Salvini stopped the crew and all migrants from leaving the boat or local waters – leaving tensions high on board.
A petition has been set up by the Sea-Watch 3 team, which has called on the UK Government to step in and for the immediate allocation of safe harbour.
Lincoln man Jon Stone, 32, who has been on Sea-Watch 3 since December 14 told reporters that the situation on board is getting worse.
He said: “We are surrounded at all hours of the day by Italian coast guard ships with blue flashing lights. I am required to stay on board as chief engineer but if I tried to leave I would have to try and swim to land.
“If I made it to land I would be arrested by Italian officials. We have 47 migrants who are still on board. We are not allowed into port with them on board.”
Maritime law says that anyone rescued at sea is to be taken to a safe port, but the Sea-Watch crew say that Italy has failed to give them that.
They were eventually offered a safe port in Syracuse five days ago but they have not been allowed to leave the Sea-Watch 3.
“We are calling for a safe port now and for future missions,” Jon said. “I would like to see Europe stand together and distribute people evenly. We have no idea just how long we are stuck for.
“I’ve seen many people lose their lives in the sea here. European governments don’t want to help these people and have passed on all responsibilities to the so-called Libyan coat guard.
“There’s a lot of frustration on board as you can imagine and fights are breaking out amongst the guests. We are running low on water and the toilets are overflowing.”
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said they encourage rescued migrants to disembark at the nearest safe port.
They told The Lincolnite: “The UK is committed to tackling irregular migration, which endangers lives and poses risks in source countries, destination countries, and to migrants themselves.
“We adopt a ‘whole of route’ approach that emphasises targeted interventions at every stage of the migrant journey.
“This includes the well-established principle that rescued migrants should be able to disembark at the nearest safe port.”
The Lincolnite also contacted the European Commission for a response, but have not received anything back at the time of writing.