Second charity boat in a week docks at Italian port
Dozens of migrants have disembarked in the early hours of Sunday after their rescue boat docked on the island of Lampedusa, ignoring orders from Italy’s Matteo Salvini to block Italian ports to rescue ships.
Some 41 people stepped off the Alex ship, a vessel run by the Italian rescue charity Mediterranea, early Sunday after it had been seized temporarily by authorities on Saturday.
The boat’s captain Tommaso Stella is being investigated by Italian authorities for allegedly aiding illegal immigration.
He, as was the case just over a week ago by German captain Carola Rackete, defied a decree issued last month by far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini stating fines of up to 50,000 euros would be slapped on any captain, owner, and operator of a vessel “entering Italian territorial waters without authorization”.
After the Alex reached port, Salvini said he would raise the maximum fine to one million euros.
He tweeted that the seizure of the criminal ship the Alex was a preventative measure.
❌ La Finanza sta effettuando sequestro penale preventivo della nave dei centri sociali. Bene. pic.twitter.com/43yRq1ljvlMatteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) July 6, 2019
He had earlier tweeted that he does not authorise any landing for those “who couldn’t care less about Italian laws and help the people smugglers”.
Third boat in a week
A third boat, the Alan Kurdi, has also been waiting off the coast of Lampedusa, but opted to sail towards Malta on Sunday, despite not having yet received permission to do so from Maltese authorities.
The Alan Kurdi belongs to the German charity Sea-Eye, has some 65 migrants onboard. Rather than wait for permission, the vessel decided to take action.
“We cannot wait until the state of emergency prevails. Now it has to be proven whether the European governments stand by Italy's attitude. Human lives are not a bargaining chip" the charity tweeted on Sunday.
Authorities had seized another belonging to Sea-Watch with Captain Carola Rackete.
She was arrested and ordered before a judge who subsequently ordered her free, adding she had been acting to save lives, a decision that sparking backlash from Salvini.
“The irresponsibility of European countries obliged me to do what I did” explained Rackete when asked why she defied orders to not dock at an Italian port.
Dying to come to Europe
In each instance, the ships have rescued migrants that have normally been leaving Libyan ports by dubious means.
On Saturday, Tunisia's Coast Guard recovered the bodies of 14 African migrants who drowned when their boat carrying more than 80 people sank after setting off
for Europe from neighbouring Libya, confirmed the Tunisian Red Crescent.
On Tuesday night, 53 migrants were killed in an air strike on a detention centre in the Libyan city Tripoli.
From the detention centres, many find ways to be smuggled into Europe, often through paying to be sent aboard a small boat that cannot withstand the distance with so many people.