Ship's captain threatens to bring stranded migrants to Italy to end limbo

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Ship's captain threatens to bring stranded migrants to Italy to end limbo
The Sea Watch 3 has been waiting off Italy for more than ten days. File photo: Federico Scoppa/AFP

The captain of the Sea Watch 3 charity rescue vessel threatened on Tuesday to enter Italian waters illegally to bring 42 migrants to shore after 13 days in limbo at sea.


"I will enter Italian waters and bring them to safety on Lampedusa," Carola Rackete said in an interview with La Repubblica daily, in reference to the island off Italy's southern tip.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has banned the Dutch-flagged vessel from approaching under a "closed ports" policy, which has seen migrants repeatedly left in limbo at sea.

READ ALSO: More than 40 people left in limbo on rescue boat off Italy

Rescued people aboard the Sea Watch 3 in January 2019. Photo: Federico Scoppa/AFP

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg on Tuesday declined to intervene but called on Italy to "continue to provide all necessary assistance" to vulnerable migrants.

The German NGO Sea-Watch had asked the ECHR to impose "interim measures" on Italy, saying the court could ask Rome to take urgent steps to resolve the standoff in order to "prevent serious and irremediable violations of human rights". 

Salvini said Tuesday the charity vessel could "stay there until Christmas and New Year" but would never be allowed in.

Of the 53 migrants initially rescued by the Sea Watch 3 off Libya on June 12th, Italy took in 11 vulnerable people.


On Lampedusa, where Salvini's anti-immigration League won 45 percent in May's European elections, a priest has camped out in the street to demand those onboard -- including three minors -- be allowed to disembark.

Dozens of German cities have said they are ready to welcome them, and the Bishop of Turin, Cesare Noviglia, said Monday his diocese would be willing to take them in.

"We can't hold on any longer. It's like we're in a prison because we are deprived of everything. Help us, think of us," one migrant from the Ivory Coast said in a video broadcast by Sea Watch.

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. 


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