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Laurence Bondard / SOS MEDITERRANEE

"It’s unacceptable to be detained for doing the right thing" - Achref, SAR team member

Achref, a dedicated Search and Rescue Team member aboard the Ocean Viking, voices his frustration regarding the ship’s detention due to the Italian decree-law of January 2, 2023, famously known as the “Piantedosi decree.” This decree rigidly mandates that humanitarian vessels must swiftly return to the port designated by the Italian coastguard following every rescue operation, even if doing so breaches maritime laws as additional boats in distress require assistance.

When I learned that the ship was being held by the Italian authorities, I felt both disappointed and angry. I was angry, because the Italian decree contradicts maritime law. I was proud to have rescued these people, and then disappointed that the Ocean Viking was detained for saving these lives. It was a huge emotional rollercoaster.

« Seeing all these people cry after rescuing them touched me a lot. »

I was proud because it was my duty to rescue and take care of the people in distress at sea. We were the only asset on scene, and we reacted without delay to respond to this boat in distress. Seeing all these people cry after rescuing them touched me a lot. I was even more proud when we disembarked them in a place of safety. It’s unacceptable to be detained for doing the right thing. For me this decree is unacceptable. I don’t know how long we will continue to face this fear of detention each time we rescue people 

Credit: Jérémie Lusseau / SOS MEDITERRANEE

We were waiting for the final decision the whole day after a night of disembarkation where we barely slept. Luisa, the Search and Rescue coordinator, came into the day room to inform us about the detention. She said it sadly. She was angry, she said it took time for her to come down to tell us about the decision. We told each other that we did what we had to do, rescuing these people. Legally and morally, it was the right thing to do. At this moment, I was looking at the faces of my crew mates. They looked so overwhelmed like they had been punched in the face. They were shocked, they kept silent for a while. But again, we told each other that nothing will keep us away from our mission, for what we are here for and that we will go back at sea as soon as we can, to respond to distress cases in the central Mediterranean. 

Credit: Claire Juchat / SOS MEDITERRANEE