The migrant rescue ship Mare Jonio | Credit : Capture d'écran Twitter
The migrant rescue ship Mare Jonio | Credit : Capture d'écran Twitter

Sea-Watch's rescue ship Mare Jonio, which rescued 49 migrants off Libya last month, has been declared unfit for rescue operations at sea by the Italian coastguard.

Italian rescue ship Mare Jonio is no longer allowed to go on rescue missions in the Mediterranean, at least for the time being. Italy's coastguard made the announcement after members specialized in navigation safety had inspected the Mare Jonio in the Marsala port in Sicily. 

The boat was sanctioned for irregularities on board, the coastguard said in a statement, concluding that the ship did not meet rescue operation standards.

It comes after Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini last week signed a directive against charity vessels rescuing migrants off Libya, targeting the Mare Jonio in particular. The rescue ship is being operated by Italian NGO Mediterranea, and is supported financially and operationally by German non-profit Sea-Watch.

Salvini, head of the anti-immigrant League party, had warned that the Mare Jonio and others must obey the orders of authorities in foreign search and rescue regions - a reference to the Libyan coastguard.

Stand-off with Italian government

The Mare Jonio rescued 49 migrants off the North African country in March after refusing to wait for a Libyan coastguard boat that was in the vicinity.

It took them to the Italian island of Lampedusa, where the ship was temporarily seized by the authorities as part of a probe into illegal immigration, before being given the all-clear.

There has been concern in Italy that recent violence in Libya will spark an exodus of people determined to seek safety in Europe.

Salvini has repeatedly said Italian ports are closed to all those attempting the perilous Mediterranean crossing.

With material from AFP

 

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