The rescue vessel Eleonore carrying around 100 migrants was seized by the Italian authorities, after it had departed and entered Italian territorial waters despite a ban, AFP reported on Monday, September 2nd.
"Now we are in a safe port," Eleonore's Captain Claus-Peter Reisch tweeted, before adding "now our ship is confiscated" and inviting contributions for a new one.
He added that they have just been informed the Italian coastguard would soon disembark “for health reasons” the last 31 people on board the ship operated by Mediterranea Saving Lives.
The ship, which has been at sea for eight days waiting for a safe port to dock after rescuing over 100 migrants in distress while crossing the Mediterranean, is operated by German charity Lifeline. Meanwhile, another rescue vessel with 31 migrants on board has been identified as the Mare Jonio.
"Their odyssey is over and a bit of humanity can be seen on the horizon. Welcome to Europe!" the charity tweeted, with the vessel currently off the coast of Italy's southern island Lampedusa.
Recently, in accordance with the hard-line politics of the outgoing League-Five Star Movement coalition government, charity vessels have been banned from entering Italian territorial waters, and Italian custom officers have stated that seizing the Eleonore is part of the draconian legislation.
According to Captain Reisch, heavy rain overnight and stormy seas had been threatening the lives of those on board.
The Mare Jonio had previously rescued 98 people in distress off Libya last week, with 67 vulnerable people disembarked to Italy, including women, children, and urgent medical cases, spokesman Luca Faenzi said.
On a similar note, a third vessel, Alan Kurdi operated by German charity Sea Eye, was on Monday, September 2nd sailing between Malta and Italy after also being banned from Italian waters by outgoing far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Salvini, who is being removed from the government after he tried to bring it down, issued a tough security decree earlier this year fining rescue vessels a million euros and providing for them to be seized and their captains prosecuted if they enter Italian waters without authorization, according to AFP.