Sea Watch sues Italy for prohibiting rescued migrants from disembarking

The NGO is calling on the European Court of Human Rights to intervene and end the 'ongoing violation of fundamental rights' resulting from Italy's refusal to let the ship dock in Syracuse

Sea Watch 3 said it was calling on the ECHR to intervene and end what it described as a fundamental human rights violation
Sea Watch 3 said it was calling on the ECHR to intervene and end what it described as a fundamental human rights violation

German rescue NGO Sea Watch has filed a case at the European Court of Human Rights against Italy over its refusal to allow the Sea-Watch 3 to dock in Sicily.

Rome's unflinching attitude towards the 47 migrants onboard the Sea Watch 3 and its continued refusal to allowed it to disembark its passengers violates fundamental human rights, the NGO claimed.

German NGO spokesman Ruben Neugebauer said that Italy's Interior Minister was "taking the people on board as political hostages".

Neugebauer stressed that laws governing international waters are clear that ships in distress "must be brought to the nearest safe harbour".

Salvini insisted that he would allow the docking of the rescue vessel only if the migrants relocate to Netherlands or Germany and likewise threatened legal action against the Sea Watch crew.

"Disembarking of migrants? Only if they head for the Netherlands, whose flag the Sea Watch boat is flying, or to Germany, the country of the NGO," Salvini tweeted. "In Italy we have already received, and spent, too much."

The Netherlands on Monday rebuffed Italy's call to take in the 47 migrants, arguing that Dutch-flagged ship had acted "on its own initiative".

"It was up to the captain of Sea Watch 3 to find a nearby port to disembark the 47 migrants he had on board," said the Dutch government.

The 47 migrants were rescued by the NGO Sea Watch's vessel and have been stranded at sea for nine days now.

The interior minister had said last week that the ports would not welcome the migrants with his signature hashtag #SalviniNonMollare (Salvini don't give in) trending on Twitter.

Late last week, a Sicilian tribunal ruled that Salvini may face up to 15 years in prison for blocking the Italian coastguard vessel Diciotti from disembarking migrants last summer.

Salvini's pinned tweet has him saying that despite news bulletins and the left talking of sea storms, freezing temperatures and babies on board, he was seeing otherwise in the footage. "Take a look for yourselves! I see shirtless men, calm seas, headphones and mobiles. I'm not changing my mind: to get to Italy, you have to respect the rules."

Thousands rally in Rome over Italy's 'anti-migrant' decree
Thousands rally in Rome over Italy's 'anti-migrant' decree

The Dutch-flagged Sea Watch 3 ship, operated by the German charity Sea Watch, picked up the migrants and asylum-seekers, including eight minors, on January 19 off the coast of Libya.

It is currently sheltering from bad weather off Sicily.

Since then Malta and Italy, the nearest European Union countries, have refused to let them dock.

On Monday evening, several thousand people gathered in the rain in front of the Parliament in Rome to demand an end to Salvini's "closed ports" policy.