Report. A new non-governmental initiative launched Thursday in Rome called Mediterranea, a ship equipped to save distressed migrant vessels.

Operation Mediterranea: ‘Lives must always be saved at sea’

“We are sailing with the knowledge that we are where we don’t want to be, because no one should be forced to become castaways who need to be saved, just as no one should be forced to become saviors.” There is no safety without rights.

With these words, Operation Mediterranea was launched Thursday in Rome—a political act of defiance and an attempt to reopen the conflict about the meaning of European soil and migration. It is an example that shows that “something can be done”: a “non-governmental operation” implemented using a ship flying the Italian flag, which left port last week heading for international waters.

This operation is the result of months of work by activists, NGOs, organizations and individual donors.  Its core supporters are individuals and organizations such as ARCI and Ya Basta Bologna, NGOs such as Sea Watch, the online magazine I Diavoli, and social organizations such as Moltivolti Palermo and Comunità San Benedetto from the port of Genoa.

The people at the forefront of the project are Nicola Fratoianni, Rossella Muroni, Erasmo Palazzotto (on board the ship) and Nichi Vendola. The goal is to demonstrate that, faced with what is happening in the Mediterranean and with the choices of the current Italian government, it is possible to find political instruments to fight back. Together with two support vessels, the ship is at the center of the project, also made possible by the contribution of Banca Etica. The objective is to carry out monitoring activities, bearing witness to and denouncing the dramatic situation in the central Mediterranean, where people are left without any help, in the deafening silence of our government, which is willfully complicit in the current situation.

The 37-meter-long ship is equipped for sea rescue if necessary. “If we find ourselves before a vessel in difficulty, we will follow the law: lives must always be saved at sea. We hope that the institutions will follow the law in turn,” a spokesperson for the project explained at the press conference.

Giorgia Linardi from the Sea Watch NGO said that the death rate in the central Mediterranean “has risen and continues to rise” over the past few months. “Yesterday [Thursday] was the commemoration of the disastrous shipwreck of Oct. 3, after which the operation Mare Nostrum was launched. Today, just as then, we have the obligation to not let people drown at sea.”

Also present were Veronica Alfonsi of Proactiva Open Arms and Sandro Veronesi, representing Corpi, a group of intellectuals supporting the project (which also includes Luigi Manconi, Michela Murgia, Gipi, Paolo Virzì, Alessandro Bergonzoni and Teresa Ciabatti), represented aboard the ship by the writer Elena Stancanelli.

You can support Operation Mediterranea at

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!