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  • Migrant search and rescue ship Sea-Watch sails near the Lampedusa island, Italy, June 26, 2019.

    Migrant search and rescue ship Sea-Watch sails near the Lampedusa island, Italy, June 26, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 June 2019

Minister Salvini says Germany and the Netherlands should assume their responsibility for the rescued African migrants.

The Sea Watch ship carrying 42 African migrants remains blocked off the coast of the Italian Lampedusa island, after violating the ban on entering Italian territorial waters, as its captains wait for the authorities to resolve their situation.

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"The ship informed authorities that 24 hours had elapsed since the declaration of necessity that forced it to enter territorial waters... As it did not receive any response or assistance, it went to the port. A mile away, however, it was told to turn off the engines," Giorgia Linardi, the Sea Watch spokeswoman informed. 

Paradoxically, the Dutch-flagged vessel remains stopped less than three miles off the "Door of Europe," a memorial to dead migrants which has made Lampedusa famous across the continent.

The ship hosts 42 of the 53 migrants rescued on June 12 in the central Mediterranean sea. The other 10 were previously disembarked to receive medical attention due to their poor health conditions.

The Sea Watch, which has refused to return these refugees to Libya as it is not safe for them, has not yet received the authorization to dock at Italian land.

“Along with Captain Carola Rackete, there are also doctors, legal advisers and cultural mediators at the Sea Watch 3. All of them are concerned about the health of the 42 migrants.” The meme reads, “Carola and the others: the lady of Sea Watch.”

Due to Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's decision, Italy maintains a "closed ports" policy to humanitarian ships because his government considers them as in favor of illegal immigration.

The Sea Watch captain Carola Rackete, a 31-year-old German woman, broke the Salvini ban Wednesday and entered Italian waters without permission to take rescued migrants to Lampedusa.

Salvini demanded Thursday that Germany and the Netherlands assume "their responsibility" and provide asylum to the rescued migrants.

"Sea Watch has campaigned politically at the expense of the safety of 42 people. They could have reached the Netherlands twice in 15 days. They rejected the nearest safe ports. The NGOs helps human traffickers," the minister claimed.

On this issue, the Italian Interior minister recalled that some 50 German municipalities declared last week that they would welcome the Sea Watch migrants; however, "nothing has come of the proclamation so far and the German government maintains that this is a European Union matter."

While Salvini expressed his desire that Italian judicial authorities immediately issue an arrest warrant against the ship's crew, the Italian Antifascist network and other human rights defenders have already collected 50,000 euros so that Sea Watch can face possible fines for entering territorial waters.

"They are not shipwrecked but trips organized by a human traffickers mafia which buy weapons and drugs with this money," Salvini said and threatened to suspend the Schengen agreement, which is an EU treaty aimed at abolishing internal border checks.

"In a normal country, they arrest you, stop you and they take the ship away from you... I do not allow foreign private associations to manage the borders of a country," the far-right politician added.

On Thursday morning the solutions to the challenge posed by the Sea Watch fluctuated between an international deal and a local-based judicial option.

“Two solutions are currently possible: the one proposed by Interior Minister Salvini, which is a diplomatic agreement with the European Union (EU) for distributing the 42 migrants in the Netherlands and Germany; and the other one, a police or judicial seizure which... would allow the vessel to arrive in port,” Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.

For its part, the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms announced that it will retake rescues in the central Mediterranean, despite the prohibition of the Spanish authorities and the restrictive policy of Italy for humanitarian work in high seas.

UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley raised concerns as this decree could lead to "more lives lost unnecessarily."

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