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Italian court frees rescue boat captain

05 Jul 2019

A court in Sicily has freed the German captain of a rescue boat who was arrested after she landed migrants and refugees rescued from the Mediterranean in the Italian island of Lampedusa. The landing was against current Italian government policy.

Carola Rackete, captain of the Netherlands-flagged Sea-Watch 3, was found not guilty of endangering lives after her vessel hit a patrol boat while docking 42 people who had spent 14 days at sea while she tried to negotiate a landing place. Italy had agreed to accept a further 13 rescued on health grounds. The boat had picked up the migrants off the coast of Libya as their inflatable boat drifted while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea into European waters.

Welcoming the captain’s release, ITF seafarers section chair Dave Heindel said: “The Italian authorities have quickly concluded that Sea-Watch 3 entered the port because of valid safety concerns for the people on board and that Rackete had been carrying out her duty to protect life, not as a deliberate challenge to the right of Italy to protect its borders.”

Those views were echoed by the European Transport Workers’ Federation whose acting general secretary Livia Spera said: “She saved lives in the Mediterranean, fulfilling the legal and moral obligation of any seafarer who encounters people in distress at sea.”

Before she appeared in court, Ms Rackete commented that the treatment of people rescued at sea was "inhumane, unacceptable and probably against every single [European government’s] claim to represent".

A stark example of the perils affecting migrants and refugees attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing came the day after the court verdict with the news that at least 80 people were feared dead after their inflatable boat capsized off the coast of Tunisia. 


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