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Migrant rescue captain to defy Salvini and attempt to bring rescued refugees ashore

Sea Watch 3 skipper Carola Rackete says she knows the far-right politician will try to prosecute her but the lives of the 42 migrants on board ‘are more important than any political game’

THE captain of an NGO migrant rescue ship is preparing to take on Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini after heading towards Lampedusa yesterday, intending to disembark 42 refugees.

In a post shared on the German NGO Sea Watch’s social media feeds yesterday morning, the charity called on its followers to help fundraise Sea Watch 3 captain Carola Rackete’s legal fees. 

 

 

“If our captain Carola follows the law of the sea, that asks her to bring the rescued people on the #SeaWatch3 to a safe port, she might face heavy sentences in Italy.”

Italy introduced new legislation on June 15 that will fine civil society rescue organisations up to €50,000 (£44,805) for bring migrants onto its shores without permission. 

Mr Salvini had originally intended to fine rescuers up to €5,000 (£4,500) per migrant but revised the figure following political pressure. 

“I have decided to enter the port in Lampedusa,” Ms Rackete said yesterday. “I know that I’m at risk, but the 42 survivors on board are exhausted. I’m going to take them to safety. 

“Their lives are more important than any political game.”

The Sea Watch 3 rescued 53 people in international waters off the coast of Libya from a rubber dinghy on June 12.

That same day, the EU-funded Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) designated Tripoli as a port of safety. 

Mr Salvini tweeted that the ship should comply with the LCG but the crew refused, replying: “Tripoli is not a port of safety. It is a crime to forcibly return rescued people to a country at war, where they face unlawful imprisonment and torture.”

He also wrote on his Facebook page this Monday: “Does the European Union want to solve the Sea Watch problem? Easy. Dutch ship, German NGO: Half of the immigrants in Amsterdam, the other half in Berlin. And seize the pirate ship.”

 

 

The Italian authorities allowed 10 of the migrants to disembark on medical grounds three days later and emergency evacuated one more on June 21, leaving 42 on board (including three children) to circle Italy’s territorial boundary around Lampedusa for five more days.  

“No European institution is willing to take responsibility and to uphold human dignity at Europe’s border in the Mediterranean,” Sea Watch chairman Johannes Bayer said yesterday. 

“This is why we have to take the responsibility ourselves. We enter Italian waters as there are no other options left to ensure the safety of our guests whose basic rights have been violated for long enough.” 

“The guarantee of human rights must not be conditional to a passport or to any EU negotiations, they have to be indivisible.” 

The ship’s cultural mediator Haidi Sadik said: “We have people on board that have gone through horrors in Libya, that have been heavily tortured, but even if this was not the case, any person rescued at sea, by law has to be brought to a place of safety. 

“These are people with basic needs and basic rights. A rescue operation is not finished until every single person rescued has both feet on the ground.”

 

 

Doctors Without Borders humanitarian affairs adviser Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui told the Star: “Every stand-off at sea further exposes how broken the European asylum system is, as politicians prioritise political point-scoring rather than the wellbeing of vulnerable people.

“Men, women and children continue to flee Libya, where many suffer in detention centres in inhumane conditions amidst an active conflict. There must be sustainable, reliable and predictable disembarkation systems for survivors where they will be treated humanely and will be able to seek asylum.

“As European governments criminalise search and rescue efforts, we see that they are losing their humanity.

“Fining humanitarian actors for rescuing people at sea is like fining ambulances for bringing patients to hospital.

“Saving lives is not a crime, it’s a duty. Life must prevail over political grandstanding.”

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