Sea-Watch vessel confiscated after disembarking 65 rescued migrants in Lampedusa

47 people disembarked in cooperation with Italian Coast Guard and Guardia di Finanza, but Sea-Watch 3 taken into “probationary confiscation”

The 47 people were disembarked in close and friendly cooperation with the Italian Coast Guard and Guardia di Finanza, as the Sea-Watch 3 was deemed too big to enter the port of Lampedusa
The 47 people were disembarked in close and friendly cooperation with the Italian Coast Guard and Guardia di Finanza, as the Sea-Watch 3 was deemed too big to enter the port of Lampedusa

The remaining 47 of 65 rescued people aboard the Sea-Watch 3 rescue charity vessel have been disembarked on the island of Lampedusa, in  cooperation with the Italian Coast Guard. 

“The ports are not closed, they cannot be closed. We have affirmed a legal duty, a moral duty, an act of solidarity: rescue at sea must be protected and defended,” said Giorgia Linardi, Sea-Watch’s representative to Italy, as the survivors were greeted in the port by locals holding banners marked ‘Welcome to Lampedusa’ and ‘Whoever saves one life, saves the entire world’. 

The 47 people were disembarked in close and friendly cooperation with the Italian Coast Guard and Guardia di Finanza, as the Sea-Watch 3 was deemed too big to enter the port of Lampedusa. 

But the Sea-Watch 3 has officially been taken into “probationary confiscation” and was asked to proceed to the port of Licata. 

Philipp Hahn, Head of Mission of Sea-Watch 3, said the ship’s confiscation was foreseeable. “It is outrageous. We have not broken any law, on the contrary, we have once more upheld the law of the sea and the Geneva Refugee Convention, so we are confident this will lead to no further proceedings. But this is a rescue ship, not a cruiser. Every day it is held in port, people may die.” 

A total number of 65 people were rescued by Sea-Watch 3 crew from a rubber dinghy in distress about 30 nautical miles off the Libyan coast on 15 May, after the Libyan coast guard left the ship stranded at sea. 

“In what Sea-Watch regards as a political move in the face of EU elections, on Friday the Italian authorities conducted a highly unusual partial disembarkation from international waters: 18 people, comprising families with young children, were taken off the Sea-Watch 3 by a Coast Guard vessel. As a result, the psychological state of the rescued guests left behind had deteriorated to the extent that captain and crew could no longer guarantee their health and safety; they declared a state of emergency and entered Italian territorial waters,” Hahn said. 

Already on Saturday, the United Nations had urged the Italian government in a letter to withdraw a directive by the Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini, stating that “search and rescue operations aiming at saving lives at sea cannot represent a violation of national legislation on border control or irregular migration, as the right to life should prevail over national and European legislation, bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding and any other political or administrative decision aimed at fighting irregular migration”. 

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