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Out of Palermo

Nearly 1,000 rescued immigrants arrive Catania

NGO rescue ship Aquarius reports immigrants to arrive Catania today.
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Slavery bolsters Sicilian farming. Rape and beatings.

From The Guardian, 11 March 2017:
Every night for almost three years, Nicoleta Bolos lay awake at night on a dirty mattress in an outhouse in Sicily’s Ragusa province, waiting for the sound of footsteps outside the door. As the hours passed, she braced herself for the door to creak open, for the metallic clunk of a gun being placed on the table by her head and the weight of her employer thudding down on the dirty grey mattress beside her.

The only thing that she feared more than the sound of the farmer’s step outside her door was the threat of losing her job. So she endured night after night of rape and beatings while her husband drank himself into a stupor outside.

“The first time, it was my husband who said I had to do this. That the owner of the greenhouse where we had been given work wanted to sleep with me and if we refused he wouldn’t pay us and would send us off his land,” she says. Read More 
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Search and rescue: "There is a real fear that the women are being trafficked"

Mark has recently joined the team on the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship operated jointly by MSF / Doctors without Borders and SOS MEDITERRANEE. Here he blogs about the team's work in the Mediterranean:

It’s crazy to think about all these people floating around out here.

I write on the port-side deck, looking out to sea.

I just heard 800 people were picked up today. That’s between us, the one other NGO ship and the Italian Coast Guard. That’s 800 people, even though it’s winter when everyone thought things would settle down.
The weather has been bad, but today was a good day with a full moon so maybe more boats set off from Libya. So…right, we found 800 people, but how many didn't get picked up and are still out there in this black sea?

Typically someone on the boat will call this MRCC (Maritime Coordination Rescue Center) hotline in Rome on a satellite phone that you never find, thrown overboard. Or a smuggler accompanies them for a while and makes the call and we're sent coordinates.

Sometimes there isn't a call and the little boats, crowded with people, are spotted from our bridge or picked up on radar.

We found 800 people, but how many are still out there in this black sea?

On both rescues since I’ve arrived we've found the boats the day they departed shore; usually we do. We have to, since their chances of making it overnight aren’t good.

This movement of people strikes me here much more heavily than the limited exposure I've had to this migration working with Doctors Without Borders in the north of Ethiopia. There, sure, people are moving with basically nothing, but at least they're on land.

The movement of people in Ethiopia is easier for me to comprehend than the idea of floating around this massive body of water, often without even a life jacket. Nothing in their pockets. One rescuer told me he picked up a man last summer who was naked. Apparently it’s not that uncommon.  Read More 
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