The Sea-Watch 3 | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/
The Sea-Watch 3 | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/

German migrant rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 is headed to the Italian island of Lampedusa with migrants on board, despite the threat of a fine. The Italian government wants the ship to dock in Germany or the Netherlands.

Sea-Watch 3 Captain Carola Rackete said Wednesday that the rescue ship would head to Lampedusa with its rescued passengers.

"I've decided to enter the port of Lampedusa," Sea-Watch tweeted the ship's German captain as saying. "I know this is risky, but the 42 shipwrecked on board are exhausted. I will bring them to safety."

The ship was reported to have entered Italian territorial waters at 2 p.m. local time (1200 UTC) on Wednesday. Rackete added a video post about the Italian coastguard and customs vessels which approached later in the afternoon: "And now they are waiting for further instructions from their superiors. I really hope they will take the rescuees off the ship."

Sea-Watch Captain Carola Rackete | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/ M. Egen

The passengers have been on the ship for two weeks, after being picked up earlier this month off the coast of Libya. The ship spent the time circling outside Italian waters off the Lampedusa coast.

While Italy has agreed to take in 11 of the rescued migrants on medical or humanitarian grounds, it has refused to take in the others, saying they should be taken either to Germany or to the Netherlands, where the Sea-Watch is registered.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Facebook: "We will use every lawful means to stop an outlaw ship, which puts dozens of migrants at risk for a dirty political game.

"Nobody will disembark unless someone cares to take them to Amsterdam, Berlin or Brussels. I'm totally fed up with this," said Salvini. "In 14 days they could have gone to the Netherlands and come back again. In 14 days they could have gone to the United States or Australia."

Bishop Cesare Noviglia the northern Italian city of Turin said Monday his diocese would be willing to take them in.

A number of German cities have also offered to welcome the migrants.

'Europe has abandoned us'

Rakete had said that after 14 days "no political and judicial solution was found." The German navigator said, "Europe has abandoned us." Rakete had refused to take the rescued people back to Libya, which the UN regards as safe.

Salvini successfully proposed a decree to fine charity ships which flout orders to keep out of Italian waters. The range of the fines is from €10,000 to €50,000 ($11,360 to $56,800). There is also the possibility of criminal action against the crew, and the confiscation of the vessel. Salvini concluded: "The right to defend our borders is sacred."

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected a petition from Sea-Watch to order Italy to take in its boat.

jm/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

First published: June 26, 2019

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