Second Migrant Rescue Boat Docks in Lampedusa

Credit: Mediterranea
Credit: Mediterranea

Published Jul 7, 2019 7:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

Despite Italy's ban, a second migrant rescue boat has docked in Lampedusa.

The vessel, Alex, operated by the Italian NGO Mediterranea and carrying 41 migrants, docked at the same quay as the Sea Watch 3 a week earlier. The Sea Watch 3 made contact with a police boat in docking, and the captain was arrested then subsequently released.

Mediterranea had declined a Maltese offer to dock in Valletta, saying the people on board could not sustain such a long journey, and they have confirmed that they have now been able to disembark.

Germany had attempted to intervene in the Italian ban on charity rescue vessels instituted by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, with its Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, asking Salvina to lift the ban. Salvina responded saying that a policy change is out of the question.

Reuters reports that Seehofer is in talks with the European Commission to find solutions for the migrants on board the Alex and the Alan Kurdi, a second vessel near Italy that has been denied permission to enter. The NGO Sea-eye has subsequently announced that the Alan Kurdi, with 65 rescued migrants on board, will sail to Malta.

Meanwhile, the Sea-Watch 3 remains detained by Italian authorities. Judge Alessandra Vella previously made a decision regarding Captain Carola Rackete that reflected no case to answer. Vella ruled that Rackete was “doing her duty saving human lives.” Sea-Watch, nonetheless, still anticipates further investigation regarding the allegation of facilitation of illegal migration. 

The U.K.-based charity Human Rights at Sea notes that NGO search-and-rescue operations have been systematically criminalized since 2015. “Let us be reminded that Sea-Watch, as well as other humanitarian NGOs, are operating under strict compliance with well-established humanitarian principles. The Italian Interior Minister appears to be intentionally misinforming the general public through misinterpretation of maritime law, levying unnecessary fines and further calling Captain Rackete an outlaw and a people smuggler.”

Founder David Hammond says: "Since 2016, the charity has advocated for better awareness of humanitarian criminalisation at sea, but which has now become a reality as a political tool to challenge migration to the E.U., and which goes against established legal norms for saving life at sea."

U.N. spokesperson for the Secretary-General Antonio Guterress, Stéphane Dujarric, warned Italy against the criminalization of sea rescue: “no vessel or ship master should be at risk of being fined for coming to the aid of boats in distress, where loss of life is imminent.”