Sea Watch defies Salvini, approaching Lampedusa

Sea Watch. Photo credit: Il Messaggero

ROME – The captain of Sea Watch 3, the migrant-rescue ship at sea for two weeks after it was denied entry into Italy, has decided to defy authorities and land in Lampedusa anyway, reports Il Messaggero. The boat is currently moored outside the harbour. 

 In a show of solidarity, the mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando has offered the crew and staff of Sea Watch honorary citizenship for "saving human lives" in the face of "logic, politics and laws which have little human and civil worth." 

 Despite warnings from a police boat, the German NGO’s rescue ship carrying 43 migrants refused to change course after entering Italian waters. Police are waiting on the piers of the Sicilian island. 

It is unclear what will happen to the ship, the migrants and Captain Carola Rackete. Under Italy’s harsh new Immigration and Security Law, they face the possibility of a 50,000 euro fine, the impounding of the vessel, and possible charges of aiding illegal immigration.

 It seems that the earlier decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to reject an appeal to legally require Italy to allow the migrants ashore forced the NGO to make a decision. Read about that ruling here

 Captain Rackete, 31, tweeted: “I bring castaways to safety. I have decided to enter the port of Lampedusa. I know what the risks are, but the 43 shipwrecked people on board are exhausted. I’m taking them to safety.” She went on, “In 14 days, it was not possible to find any political or legal solution. Europe has abandoned us.”

 League Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called the decision a “hostile act.” He has repeatedly led the government’s firm “ports closed” stance and argue that the migrants should be taken back to Tripoli. He has also said that the Netherlands should take responsibility since the boat flies a Dutch flag.

 Just a few hours previously, Salvini had revelled in the ECHR triumph, in what has come to be something of a personal campaign.