Italy rebuffs German migrant appeal as rescue boat disembarks at Lampedusa

Saul Bowman
July 9, 2019

The Maltese coastguard vessel was to pick up the rescued migrants from the 18-metre (59-foot) sailboat Alex which is now in global waters off Italy's Lampedusa island, after Salvini signed a decree forbidding them to approach.

In what appeared to be a reference to the recent stand-off between the Italian government and the charity ships, a prayer read by one of the participants said: "Lord Jesus, bless the rescuers in the Mediterranean Sea, and make grow in each of us the courage of truth and respect for every human life".

The maneuver was very similar to one made by a German rescue ship one week ago that disobeyed direct orders from port officials to moor in Lampedusa - but apparently without the dramatic counter-maneuvers by Italian authorities that led to the German ship's knocking against a police boat that attempted to block it.

According to Mediterranea spokeswoman Alessandra Sciurba, the charity had no choice but to head to the closest port due to health and hygiene conditions aboard the Alex.

Salvini on Twitter pointed to an offer from Malta to accept the migrants from the Italian-flagged ship.

Last week, a 17-day standoff between Italy and a rescue ship ended when the German captain defied orders and forced her way to a dock in Lampedusa's main port.

A separate plan would have been for the Italian navy to pick up the migrants from the Alex and take them to Valletta, but Italian defence ministry sources said this was nixed by Salvini's ministry.

Now it has to be proven whether the European governments stand by Italy's attitude.

Matteo Salvini, Italy's interior minister, has said again he'll now not allow migrants to disembark.

A third boat with water leaks was carrying 56 Africans, including 13 women, and was rescued Saturday afternoon by a Civil Guard patrol boat in waters further east into the Mediterranean, the spokesman said.

A German rescue ship heading to Malta after being refused entry into Italy has been given clearance to enter Maltese waters, authorities have said.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said his country will take up to 40 of the migrants from the two vessels. "There are no closed ports for humanity".

The migrants dangle now all come ashore after hours of waiting below guard.

Maltese authorities said they had rescued another group of 50 migrants in Malta's search and rescue zone on Sunday, after receiving a distress call saying their vessel was sinking.

They applauded as they docked on Saturday afternoon.

In the meantime, another NGO ship, the Alan Kurdi - operated by German charity Sea-Scrutinize - is afloat in global waters excellent exterior Lampedusa, carrying another 65 of us.

"We are waiting in worldwide waters off the island of Lampedusa", Sea-Eye tweeted from the Alan Kurdi.

Underscoring the dangers, more than 80 migrants were feared to have drowned off the coast of Tunisia after their boat capsized, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Thursday.

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