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Italy releases seized Sea Watch rescue ship

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Italy releases seized Sea Watch rescue ship
The Sea Watch 3, which was impounded in Sicily for allegedly breaking safety rules. Photo: Federico Scoppa/AFP
14:02 CET+01:00
Migrant rescue ship Sea Watch 3 has been given permission to leave Italy three weeks after it was detained for breaching safety and environmental laws, the coastguard said on Friday.

The Dutch-flagged ship was blocked in the port of Catania at the start of February for "a series of non-compliances concerning both navigation safety and compliance with rules protecting the marine environment".

"The vessel has been given permission to sail", Italy's coastguard said, adding that its destination was the port of Marseille. Some of the issues have been resolved, while others will be dealt with when the ship docks in France, it said.

READ ALSO: Sea Watch migrants to dock in Italy after 7 countries agree to take them in


Photo: Federico Scoppa/AFP

The Sea Watch 3 was held after it disembarked dozens of people it had saved from the Mediterranean sea. The crew had said at the time that it expected the vessel to be detained or impounded as a show of strength from Italy's anti-immigration Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who says charity rescue boats aid illegal migration.

Salvini is looking into whether it is possible to ban charity rescue ships from Italian waters. He accuses them of sailing straight for Italy rather than taking the migrants back to Libya.

Rescuers argue that they cannot return people to the crisis-hit North African country as it cannot be considered a safe port under international maritime law. 

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