Italy bans surveillance and rescue planes over the Mediterranean

May 8, 2024 | International actors

On 8 May, the German Search and rescue organisation Sea Watch launched an aerial surveillance mission from the Italian island of Lampedusa, in defiance of a ruling by the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) on 6 May banning small planes used by migrant charities from airports on the islands of Sicily, Pantelleria and Lampedusa. ENAC said in its ruling that the NGO planes monitoring the Mediterranean were ‘unwarranted,’ represented a burden for official rescue teams, and risked compromising the safety of migrants. Sea Watch called the move ‘an act of cowardice and cynicism by those who criminalize the NGOs for political propaganda.’ An IOM spokesperson said that the decision ‘may hinder life-saving efforts’.

According to IOM, between 28 April and 4 May, 265 migrants were intercepted in the Mediterranean and forcibly returned to Libya by the coast guard. The total number of migrants forcibly returned to Libya in 2024 is 5,422 as of 4 May, with 245 deaths on the Central Mediterranean route and 324 people missing.