Four British rescuers, including two men from Nottinghamshire, and 47 refugees are finally able to disembark at Catania today after immigration rows with Italian authorities.
The vessel now has permission to dock after Italy and six other countries struck a deal to take migrants in.
The 47 migrants will be distributed among seven EU member states – Italy, Germany, France, Portugal, Romania, Malta and Luxembourg.
Frank Doerner, doctor on board Sea-Watch 3 said: “After 10 days of insecurities at sea with severe mental consequences for our guests we could potentially reach a safe port today.”
Brendan Woodhouse and Dan Bebawi, from Nottinghamshire, are part of the humanitarian crew on Sea-Watch3 who rescued 47 migrants from an inflatable vessel which was losing air during storms in the Mediterranean on January 19.
Sea-Watch is a non-profit organisation that conducts civil search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and Sea-Watch 3 patrols the Libya 24 nautical and actively searches for boats in distress.
The crew were able to shelter offshore from Syracuse, Sicily but despite various cities offering a port of safety they are prevented from leaving the boat, or local waters while they are being investigated.
The #SeaWatch3 arrives in #Catania. We're happy for our guests whose ordeal is now over and we wish them all the best. May #Europe grant them a warm welcome and let them live their lifes as the survivors they are. #DefendSolidarity #United4Med pic.twitter.com/xATClV7Z2b
— Sea-Watch International (@seawatch_intl) January 31, 2019
Father-of-two Brendan Woodhouse, who lives in Matlock, Derbyshire has been caught up in the political row and is appealing for assistance.
He said: “We are being threatened with a criminal investigation for saving people’s lives at sea.
“We would ask Jeremy Hunt to apply some pressure on the Italian authorities to accept 47 people on board and allow the crew to leave. And also to take a share of the responsibility of some of these people that we have rescued.”
The 42-year-old had been due to take a flight back to the UK on Monday and return to work at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service at Highfields station in the city.
Brendan shared a harrowing story of a refugee on the vessel, Doro, calling him beautiful and admiring his inner strength after suffering merciless torture in Libya.
“His torture was repeated many times, smashing his face with a Kalashnikov rifle, and causing him to lose sight in his eye. He was stabbed in the stomach and beaten over and over again. His scars are very real,” Brendan said.
Also on the vessel are chief engineer, Jon Stone, a 32-year-old former Navy serviceman from Lincoln, and Bosun Dan Bebawi, 39, formally a car mechanic in Nottingham.
The Foreign Office is closely monitoring the situation and the ECHR said on Tuesday that the Italian government must provide the 15 unaccompanied minors on board with adequate legal assistance.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has told Italy to provide food, water and medical care to the four British rescuers and 47 refugees stranded.
Ed Winstaley, senior parliament assistant to Sir Patrick McLoughlin, Matlock’s MP said: “Sir Patrick is aware of Mr Woodhouse’s case and has been in contact with the Foreign Secretary’s office by both telephone and in writing.
“He will continue to monitor the situation very closely and liaise with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”
Sicilians have offered their support and three United Nations agencies have appealed to Italy to allow the migrants off the ship, however jurisdiction lies with national authorities.
A spokesman for Sea-Watch said: “We ask for an end to this odyssey that the 47 people on board are suffering. People, whose physical and psychological state is at stake and who immediately need assistance.”
You can donate to Sea-Watch here.