Sea-Watch 3 has been in limbo for 14 days after rescuing 42 migrants, including three unaccompanied minors, from an inflatable raft and is heading towards Lampedusa in spite of Italian authorities' refusal to welcome the migrants.
The NGO-owned boat Sea-Watch 3, carrying 42 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, is heading for Lampedusa island despite not receiving permission to enter Italian waters.
The captain of the charity rescue vessel threatened to enter Italian waters illegally to bring the migrants to shore after 14 days in limbo at sea.
"I have decided to enter the port of Lampedusa. I know what I'm risking, but the 42 rescued are exhausted. I'm bringing them to safety now," Captain Carola Rackete tweeted yesterday.
Captain defies Italian port blockade
"There are still 42 rescued people on board, including three isolated minors, the youngest is 12 years old," confirmed Sea-Watch in a statement.
“Those on board are from a number of African countries, including Niger, Guinea, Cameroon, Mali, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.”
“Italy has denied conceding the Sea-Watch 3 into its national waters and the port of the southern island of Lampedusa. Only a limited group of migrants on board the ship, including two pregnant women, were allowed to disembark.”
Accusations of human trafficking
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is refusing to allow the NGO-run vessel to dock in Italy, accusing the charity of human trafficking.
Salvini instantly took to Facebook to react to the announcement.
"We will use every legal means to stop an outlaw ship, which puts dozens of migrants at risk of a dirty political game,” he said.
Migrants stranded in limbo ‘until Christmas’
Salvini stated on Tuesday, June 25 that the charity vessel could "stay there until Christmas and New Year" but would never be allowed to dock in Italy.
"I will not give admission for anyone to disembark... Our patience is over. We will use every legal means to end this shameful latitude. The laws of a state must be valued,” he stated.
The Dutch-flagged vessel, representing a German organisation that rescues migrants at sea, picked up the 42 people from an inflatable raft in the Mediterranean 14 days ago.
The crew has refused to return them to Libya, saying Tripoli is not a safe port.
EU refuses to order Italy to accept refugees
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Italian government must continue to provide necessary assistance to vulnerable people on board the ship.
However it ruled against the charity, which had appealed for an emergency decree allowing migrants to disembark in Italy as an ‘interim measure’ to "prevent serious and irremediable violations of human rights".
Sea-Watch responded with a statement, affirming: “The European Court of Human Rights failed to provide any expedient for the 42 survivors stuck aboard the rescue ship Sea-Watch 3. Their situation is now more dangerous than ever.”
Consequently, the European Court of Human Rights found that the interim measures requested by Sea-Watch should “apply only where there is an immediate risk of hopeless abuse”.
Johannes Bayer, Chairman of Sea-Watch responded in turn in an open letter, writing: "No European institution is disposed to take responsibility and to endorse human morality at Europe’s border in the Mediterranean. 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.”
In a video broadcast by Sea-Watch, a migrant from the Ivory Coast made an appeal demanding to be rescued urgently.
"We are tired... we are all exhausted having just run away from Libya we are sitting around, and if not sitting than laying down. Imagine what this person would feel. This person is necessarily going to get sick. We cannot hold out any longer. It's like we're in prison because we are deprived of everything, we cannot do anything.”
🔴 Despite daily updates on the critical and continuously deteriorating situation aboard #SeaWatch3, the authorities only intervened when a person was in a critical condition.— Sea-Watch International (@seawatch_intl) June 23, 2019
The video of the medical evacuation and our Captain Carola's comment.
Sea-Watch 3 has been waiting for somewhere to dock since first rescuing 53 people in international waters in the Libyan Search and Rescue Region.
German cities ready to welcome migrants
Meanwhile, dozens of German cities have declared readiness to welcome the migrants, and the Bishop of Turin, Cesare Noviglia also stated that his diocese would also be willing to take them in.
In January, 32 migrants rescued by the vessel were stranded on board for 18 days before they were allowed to disembark in Malta thanks to a distribution deal made between several European countries.
Sea-Watch is a non-profit organisation that conducts civil search and rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean. During crises, they provide emergency relief, advocate legal escape routes and push for rescue operations by European institutions.