We'll answer calls says coast guard head (5)

It's Biblical exodus, update 1979 Hamburg Convention

(ANSA) - Rome, June 26 - Italy's coast guard chief told ANSA Tuesday that they would always respond to distress calls from migrant boats in the Mediterranean. Speaking after Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Monday he would back Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli if he told the coast guard not to answer the calls, Admiral Giovanni Pettorino said " we have always responded, we always respond and we will always respond to all rescue calls". He said "we do so because it is a legal obligation but also an obligation we feel morally: all men of the sea have always staged rescues and brought help to those in trouble at sea, even without conventions. We have never left anyone alone at sea". Pettorino added that "we operate on the basis of the Hamburg Convention for search and rescue at sea, which dates back to 1979 and was created for episodes that happen once in a while, not all the time. What is happening now, on the other hand, is an epochal, Biblical exodus, with an entire people moving or trying to move by sea along a short but dangerous stretch of water, with inadequate vessels and so we need to revise the Convention.
    (For the government, anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) MP and Costa Concordia disaster hero Gregorio De Falco denied there was a "Biblical exodus" and said migrant arrivals from Libya were falling.) Italy is the only one out of the 23 Mediterranean countries to rescue migrants, Pettorino told ANSA. "We have coordinated all the rescues in an area of one million and one hundred thousand square kilometres which is practically the half of the Mediterranean, and yet 23 countries look onto this sea," the admiral said. "The coast guard did this alone, with the help of all those who helped, merchant ships, military ships, all those who answered our calls. Now the scenario is changing because Libya is intervening."