According to a recent report by Deutsche Welle, the German-flagged ship “Alan Kurdi” had rescued 40 refugees from a sinking vessel off the coast of Libya. The migrants said they had set off from the Libyan city of Tadschura, east of the capital Tripoli. The people on board include a baby, two small children and two pregnant women.
But the operator of the German rescue ship signaled its intention to stay outside Italian territorial waters after Italy banned it from entering. German NGO Sea-Eye said on August 1, 2019, it plans to approach Lampedusa but remain outside Italian territorial waters after Italy’s hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, banned the migrant rescue vessels.
Sea-Eye spokesperson Carlotta Weibl said migrant rescue boats had to “respond immediately to situations, as soon as there is an emergency at sea.”
“Political calculations should not play any role whatsoever,” she added. The closest port is at the Italian island of Lampedusa, Weibl said. It’s critical that migrants be allowed to disembark there in accordance with international law so that they could receive future treatment, she added.
On August 1, 2019, Weibl said the German rescue ship had tried to make contact with the Italian coastguard, but has yet to receive a response.
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini accused the ship of “continuous provocation”: “Here we go again, the German NGO doesn’t care about international authority,” Salvini wrote on July 31, 2019 on Twitter. “I won’t give up.”
Salvini has taken a hard line approach to prevent migrant rescue vessels from reaching Italian ports. After days at sea on board the Gregoretti rescue ship, 131 migrants were only allowed to disembark in Lampedusa on Wednesday, following an EU agreement over refugee resettlement.
The EU’s Dublin III Regulation says that migrants are to apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter the bloc. Italy, Malta and Greece, as the countries closest to Libya, have received the most migrants, and have argued that they are unable to settle them all.
Italy says there could be criminal consequences if a ship docks in their ports. Authorities arrested migrant rescue ship captain Carola Rackete in July 2019, after she docked in Lampedusa without prior permission. She has since been released following an international outcry.