Mon, 20 Jan 2020

Sea-Watch 3 Captain Calls for EU Action on Migrants Rescues

Voice of America
19 Jul 2019, 00:35 GMT+10

ROME - A German humanitarian ship captain who eluded an Italian effort to block her from docking at an Italian port with migrants onboard has called for the European Commission to do its best to avoid new political standoffs.

Carola Rackete, captain of the Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch 3, was questioned by Italian prosecutors in the Sicilian city of Agrigento on Thursday for allegedly aiding illegal immigration.

Rackete was arrested June 29 for entering the Italian port of Lampedusa, ignoring a block imposed by far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. She was also accused of hitting an Italian border police boat as she disembarked 40 migrants who were rescued off Libya and spent over two weeks at sea in a political standoff.

A judge overturned the arrest three days later, saying the captain had acted to save lives.

But Rackete is still under investigation for entering Italian waters despite a direct order not to.

"I've been very happy to be able to explain all the details of the rescue operation carried out on June 12," Rackete said.

"I hope that the European Commission, after the election of the new parliament, will do its best to avoid this kind of situation and that all the countries will accept migrants saved by civilian rescue ships," she added.

Rackete's lawyer, Alessandro Gamberini, told reporters that after her arrest was overturned, she is free to go back to Germany. Rackete hasn't said whether she has decided to remain in Italy for now.

Gamberini also said that criminalizing people for saving human lives at sea is an act of "irresponsibility."

Salvini has pushed a tough stance against illegal migration, closing Italian ports to humanitarian boats. He blames them for aiding human traffickers by rescuing migrants who try to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

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