Author: Sam Blewett
The Foreign Office has said it is closely monitoring the situation surrounding British migrant rescuers under investigation on their vessel stranded off Sicily.
The crew of Sea-Watch 3 are unable to disembark the 47 migrants they rescued from the Mediterranean under Italy’s anti-migrant policy.
Brendan Woodhouse, from near Matlock in Derbyshire, said from the ship that they are also prevented from leaving while under investigation for allegedly assisting illegal immigration .
The father of two and three other British crew members called for Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to intervene to help free them and their passengers.
On Tuesday, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We continue to monitor the situation on board Sea-Watch 3 closely. We are seeking further information on the British nationals affected.”
The Sea-Watch 3 crew said they rescued the migrants, including 15 unaccompanied minors, from a deflating vessel on January 19.
Amid storms, they were allowed to shelter offshore from Syracuse, Sicily, but Mr Woodhouse said they were ordered not to leave local waters.
Right-wing Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini accused the crew of criminality, and his ministry reportedly said it is gathering information to press charges for “favouring illegal immigration”.
Mr Woodhouse, a 42-year-old firefighter, 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.”
Head of mission Kim Heaton-Heather, 37, originally from Brighton, is heading the mission.
Also on board are chief engineer Jon Stone, a 32-year-old former Navy serviceman from Lincoln, and bosun Dan Bebawi, 39, formerly a car mechanic in Nottingham.