NGO rescue boat captain faces Italian jail
The captain of the migrant rescue ship Sea-Watch 3, Carola Rackete, might be jailed for three and 10 years after forcing the boat to dock at the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The German Rackete, 31, rammed a smaller police boat which blocked its way to the pier yesterday (Saturday), damaging the motorboat.
The 41 migrants on board hugged the crew and kissed the Italian island’s dock upon arrival after 17 days at sea.
Rackete reportedly faces the charge of “resisting a warship”.
“We put ourselves in the way to prevent [the NGO vessel] from entering the port,” a police officer said.
“If we had stayed there, [it] would have destroyed our speedboat.”
The German-based charity Sea-Watch vessel waited for authorisation to dock for over two weeks during the Europe-wide heatwave. Thirteen of the sickest migrants were allowed to leave but Italy’s populist interior minister Matteo Salvini refused to allow the remaining 41 to disembark until other EU countries pledged to offer them asylum. The firebrand deputy prime minister says the burden of illegal immigration should be shared across the European Union.
Salvini says the NGO rescue vessels essentially aid Libya’s trafficking gangs, who launch flimsy rubber dinghies and fishing boats overcrowded with migrants in the knowledge they will not be able to reach Europe.
“I have asked for the arrest of an outlaw who put at risk the lives of the border police on the motorboat,” Salvini told RAI radio.
He said he also ordered the seizure of the ship, “which goes around the Mediterranean breaking laws”, by rescuing drowning migrants.
Salvini, whose Lega party has been boosted by his anti-migrant policy, praised the arrest of the “law-breaking captain”.
Sea-Watch originally rescued 53 people from an unseaworthy boat launched by Libya-based traffickers on June 12.
“Mission accomplished,” the populist Salvini tweeted. “Pirate ship seized, maximum fine for foreign NGO.”
Salvini also posted on Facebook: “It is nice that they say ‘we save lives,’ but they nearly killed people who were doing their jobs.
“This is a criminal act and an act of war.”
Salvini said five EU countries had offered to take the migrants: Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal, raising the question about why the vessel was still being denied access to the Italian port.
Italian opposition politicians expressed solidarity with the migrants.
The Democratic Party’s Graziano Delrio said the Italian judiciary would decide if Rackete broke the law, comparing her to an ambulance “which goes through a red light” to get patients to a hospital.
Scenes on board the Sea-Watch 3. Picture credit: YouTube