The Italian coast guard has impounded the rescue ship Alan Kurdi at the port of Palermo in Sicily, saying it has found "irregularities". The German-flagged vessel arrived in Italy after rescuing 150 migrants off Libya last month and being placed under coronavirus quarantine.
Italian authorities decided to impound the Alan Kurdi on Tuesday after inspecting the vessel, operated by the German NGO Sea-Eye. The ship will not be allowed to sail "until the irregularities detected are rectified," the coastguard said in a statement. It said the irregularities were "of a technical and operational nature to the extent that they risk compromising not only the safety of the crew, but also of those who have been or could be rescued."
The coastguard said Germany, the flag state of the Alan Kurdi, would have to intervene to ensure the ship complied with international and national maritime and waste-disposal laws.
Sea-Eye on Wednesday called the decision "grotesque" and said it meant the charity would be unable to carry out rescue activities for the rest of the month. However, in a statement, the charity said it would "of course cooperate with German and Italian authorities," adding that the irregularities were "technically solvable."
"The fact is that Alan Kurdi crews saved a total of 688 lives without something happening to a crew member or rescued person," Sea-Eye said. It also noted that the ship has undergone four inspections in Italy and Spain during the past 16 months, whereas "it is quite common for coastal states to inspect other states' ships once a year."
Crew and rescued migrants quarantined
On April 6 the Alan Kurdi rescued 150 people off the Libyan coast. The crew and rescued passengers were placed under COVID-19 quarantine, which ended on Monday. The migrants spent the quarantine period on a ferry off the port of Palermo. Around 34 other migrants rescued by the Spanish rescue ship Aita Mari were also quarantined on the ferry.
Most of the migrants will be transferred to other European countries, according to Italian officials, but no relocation deal has been announced.
Italy is no longer allowing rescued sea migrants to disembark upon arrival due to the COVID-19 pandemic.