A ship carrying 42 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean has entered Italian waters despite the explicit ban by the country’s hard-line interior ministry, the German humanitarian group Sea-Watch said on Wednesday, June 26th.
AP reported that the ship, called the Sea-Watch 3, is carrying 42 migrants who were rescued from Libya two weeks ago. The leader of the vessel, Captain Carola Rackete, was quoted on the group’s Twitter account: “I am responsible for the 42 rescued at sea, and they can’t take it anymore. Their lives are more important than any political game.”
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini responded to the situation, saying he would not allow any of the migrants to disembark, and threatening to deploy law enforcement. “The right to defend our borders is sacred,” he said.
Salvini also insisted the boat should have continued to other ports during the two-week standoff, rather than remaining close to Italy. He cited nearby Malta and Tunisia, but also northern European ports, noting that the humanitarian group is German and that the migrant boat has a Dutch flag.
Sea-Watch’s cultural mediator Haidi Sadik also commented on the situation: “Every single person rescued at sea, by law, needs to be taken to a place of safety. A rescue is not over until every single person has both feet on land.”
Sea-Watch pointed out that they were aware of the threats, but the law of the sea would dictate that the captain had to bring the rescued people to a safe port, even though she might face heavy sentences in Italy. They further explained that the migrants had become desperate after the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected their appeal to be allowed to disembark in Italy.
Those on board were among the 53 that the group said it rescued on June 12th from a rubber boat off Libya in international waters. Since then, 11 of them were evacuated to Italy for medical reasons. Once someone enters critical condition, different laws apply. Saw-Watch Chairman Johannes Bayer pointed out the cruelty of this. “We cannot wait until every single one becomes a medical emergency,” he said.
This is the latest standoff since Italy’s populist government began refusing humanitarian rescue ships the permission to use its harbours last year.