The private rescue vessel "Alan Kurdi," run by the private search-and-rescue charity Sea-Eye, confirmed that it would not enter Italian territorial waters after picking up 40 migrants at sea yesterday. The rescued migrants reportedly hail from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali, Congo and Cameroon.
Sea-Eye said in a statement that it would turn off its engines before reaching Italian waters, 12 nautical miles outside the Italian island of Lampedusa. Under a new law sponsored by Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, migrant rescuers who ignore orders to stay out of Italian waters face hefty fines of up to €50,000 and the impounding of their vessels upon arriving in an Italian port.
The sea vessel has been assigned safe harbor at the Libyan capital, Tripoli, but said on Twitter that would not navigate in that direction as it wasn't going to "bring anyone back to a civil war country."
Among those on board the "Alan Kurdi" are two survivors of the Libyan internment camp Tajoura, which at the beginning of July suffered heavy bombardment as part of ongoing clashes in Libya, as well as a pregnant woman, Sea-Eye said.
According to Sea-Eye, the captain of the "Alan Kurdi," Andrej Kovaliov, contacted Libyan, Maltese and Italian authorities asking to dock the ship with the rescued migrants on board, with only Libya offering safe port. A spokeswoman for Sea-Eye said that as long as the German government, under whose flag the "Alan Kurdi" is currently sailing in Mediterranean waters, did not force the vessel to change its course to Libya, it would not take migrants there because of the precarious humanitarian conditions there.
Hot waters for Salvini
Salvini, who has shut the country's ports to private rescue vessels, meanwhile said on Twitter that the "Alan Kurdi's" refusal to accept Tripoli's offer of a safe harbor showed that "German NGOs don't care about international authorities."
A day earlier, Salvini had reluctantly allowed 116 rescued migrants on board an Italian Coast Guard ship to disembark after various EU countries agreed to have the migrants redistributed among them.
Dozens of migrants had been forced to remain docked on the Gregoretti in Sicily for five days after Salvini refused to let them get off without European reassurances.