Defying Ban, Migrant Rescue Ship Enters Italian Waters

Image courtesy Sea-Watch

Published Jun 26, 2019 1:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

Capt. Carola Rakete, master of the migrant rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3, said Wednesday that she would enter Italian waters with a group of 42 survivors on board, citing their health and wellbeing. Her decision defies an Italian ban on migrant arrivals and the protests of anti-immigration interior minister Matteo Salvini. 

"I know what I'm risking, but the 42 survivors I have on board are exhausted. I'm taking them to safety," Capt. Rakete said in a statement. Sea Watch is already accepting donations for her legal defense fund in anticipation of charges. 

The Sea-Watch 3 has been awaiting permission to disembark the survivors at a port of refuge for 14 days, and on Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights declined to intervene. “No European institution is willing to take responsibility and uphold human dignity at Europe’s border in the Mediterranean. This is why we have to take the responsibility ourselves," said Sea Watch chairman Johannes Bayer in a statement. 

In response, Salvini said that the Sea-Watch 3 should have delivered the survivors to Tunisia, not to Italy. "If you take immigrants on board, go to the nearest port, not to Italy at the expense of the Italians just because it is an 'appreciated' destination. That doesn't work with me anymore," he said in a Twitter post Wednesday morning. "It is a provocation and a hostile act: I had already written to my Dutch counterpart, and now I am satisfied that the ambassador of Italy in The Hague is taking a formal step with the government of the Netherlands." (Sea-Watch 3 flies the Dutch flag.)

As of Wednesday evening, Sea-Watch 3 was stopped at the Lampedusa anchorage, about one nm offshore. "The Italian authorities have just come onboard," Capt. Rakete said in a video update. "They have checked our ship certificates and the passports of the crew, and now they are waiting for further instructions from their superiors. I really hope they will take the rescuees off the ship soon,"