Rescued migrants in limbo as two charity ships banned from Italian waters

AFP - [email protected]
Rescued migrants in limbo as two charity ships banned from Italian waters
The charity rescue ship Alan Kurdi. Photo: Fabian Heinz/

Two charity rescue ships in the Mediterranean are seeking a safe port after being banned from entering Italian territorial waters.


An Open Arms charity ship with 124 rescued migrants on board was banned from entering Italian on Friday.

The vessel, run by a Spanish-run NGO, joined the Alan Kurdi ship in the latest stand-off with Italy's government.

The Proactiva Open Arms group said its vessel had plucked 69 migrants and asylum seekers from a boat in trouble overnight on Thursday.

They included two children, people bearing "terrible signs of violence", and a nine-month 
pregnant woman having contractions, it said.

Open Arms on Thursday had already rescued 55 people from a sinking vessel, including two babies and 15 women.

As they crowded together on deck under the shade of tarpaulins, the charity ship headed north but its destination was unclear.

Italy's anti-imigrant interior minister Matteo Salvini has signed an order prohibiting the ship from entering Italian waters.

He did the same for the Alan Kurdi, which is run by German NGO Sea-Eye and has 40 rescued migrants on board.

After initially heading to waters off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, the ship said on Friday it had changed course for Malta.

Those on the Alan Kurdi ship, rescued Wednesday off Libya, hail from West Africa and include a pregnant woman, three young children and a man with gunshot wounds, according to Sea-Eye.

All migrants rescued by Open Arms have been disembarked in Spain since the middle of last year.
But the Spanish authorities have forbidden the ship to return to the waters off Libya, saying it would face a fine of between up to 900,000 euros, according to the charity.

During its last rotation off Libya in early July, the Alan Kurdi rescued 109 migrants and disembarked them in Malta.

Salvini has insisted since taking up the interior ministry post in June 2018 that rescued migrants can only land in Italy if an agreement is already in place with other European countries to look after them.

Earlier this week, the Interior Ministry allowed 116 rescued migrants on its Gregoretti coastguard ship to disembark in Italy.

In August 2018, more than 150 people were stranded on the Italian coastguard ship Diciottifor over a week before an agreement between the church, Albania and Ireland allowed them to disembark. 

READ ALSO: Italian coastguard staff break silence to express concern over migrant policy



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