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  • African migrants at the Sea-Eye vessel wait in international waters off the Lampedusa island, Italy, July 6, 2019.

    African migrants at the Sea-Eye vessel wait in international waters off the Lampedusa island, Italy, July 6, 2019. | Photo: Twitter / @seaeyeorg

Published 6 July 2019

Once again, the Italian authorities have not allowed a humanitarian vessel to dock in their territory, despite the dire situation off their coast.

The Italian government has not allowed 106 shipwrecked African migrants, which were rescued by ​​​​the German vessel Alan Kurdi and the Italian sailboat Alex at the Mediterranean sea, to be docked at  Lampedusa Island.

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According to local media La Repubblica, Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Friday that the Alan Kurdi "is a German ship, they can go to Germany."

The Italian border police ('Guardia di Finanza') informed the Alan Kurdi vessel, which belongs to the humanitarian organization Sea-Eye, about the prohibition of access, transit and docking in Italian territorial waters.

"If it disobeys there will be all the consequences of the case. Those who break the laws in Italy answer for their choices," the Interior Minister said.

Such a decision comes from the "Closed Ports" policy defended by Salvini, a far-right politician who has claimed that the ships rescueing shipwrecked people are part of a 'criminal' enterprise used to encourage immigration.

The vessel Alan Kurdi, which was named after a Syrian boy that drowned in Turkish territorial waters in 2015, saved 65 migrants off the coast of Libya on Friday and headed for Lampedusa, the nearest safe port.

On Thursday, 41 migrants were also saved by Alex, a sailboat owned by Mediterranea, which keeps the rescued migrants on its deck. The ship does not have enough space to house them inside. Due to this critical situation, it requested permission to dock in Lampedusa.​​​​​​​

“Again! NGO boats are heading to Lampedusa and Italy seeks to prevent them [from arriving in]. Isn't this week’s massacre of captive migrants in Libya enough to end the indecency of Salvini and Di Maio?.” The meme reads, "The situation in front of the island is complicated. 65 migrants are on board the Sea-Eye vessel. Interior Ministry notifies the access ban."

The case of Alex, which has capacity to hold only 18 people, including its tripulation, has become a tug-of-war between Mediterranea and authorities since the ship has permission to disembark the rescued Africans in Valletta, the capital port-city of Malta.​​​​​​​

However, the Italian NGO considers it 'foolish' for the authorities to want its sailboat to travel to Valletta (more than 90 miles away) instead of allowing it to reach Lampedusa (only 12 miles away).

Mediterranea points out that it will be 'impossible' for its ship to reach Malta if some migrants are not first transferred to Maltese or Italian military vessels.

Meanwhile, Italian authorities sent Alex some food, thermal blankets and disinfectants. They said that military ships could escort the vessel to Valletta in exchange for the sailboat submitting to authorities.

According to Salvini, Mediterranea does not want to take the rescued migrants to Malta for fear of having its sailboat confiscated.

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