Italy seizes third migrant rescue ship in 48 hours for flouting maritime laws

The humanitarian vessels have been detained for up to 20 days for conducting multiple rescue missions in a single voyage

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke

Italy has seized its third migrant rescue vessel in the space of 48 hours for repeatedly violating the country’s maritime laws, which prevent ships from embarking on multiple rescue missions in a single voyage.

The German-operated Sea-Eye 4 vessel has been impounded at the Port of Salerno for 20 days, and its captain was fined €3,000 after conducting three rescue operations before returning to port.

The vessel joins a ship operated by the Spanish Open Arms charity that was seized on Tuesday and whose captain was fined €10,000 for bringing to shore 195 migrants in three rescue missions, and the Aurora vessel, operated by the German charity Sea-Watch, which was detained for taking migrants to an unapproved port.

Open Arms confirmed on social media that its vessel had also been sanctioned with a 20-day “administrative blockade” by Italian authorities.

“The rescuers are accused of repeated violation of the new Italian law that came into force in February 2023,” the Sea-Eye organization said in a statement.

“We are accused again of having carried out various rescue operations. If we didn’t do it, people would have lost their lives,” added its president, Gorden Isler.

State police are also understood to have arrested two Palestinian and Egyptian nationals on board the Sea-Eye 4 on suspicion of smuggling 38 illegal migrants into Italy, mainly from Bangladesh, according to the Italian news site Ondanews.

Humanitarian NGOs in favor of mass immigration have been at loggerheads with the right-wing Italian government led by Giorgia Meloni since her Brothers of Italy (FdI) party won last autumn’s election.

A government order, known locally as the Meloni Decree, imposed restrictions on how migrant rescue vessels could operate in the Mediterranean, limiting them to one rescue per voyage and giving stricter orders on where ships could disembark.

Despite the new laws designed to crack down on illegal immigration, Italy has failed to stem the flow of new arrivals from the Mediterranean. Embarrassing figures published this week by the country’s interior ministry revealed more than 100,000 migrants have landed on Italian shores so far this year.

The figure is more than double the 48,000 who arrived in the same period last year, and almost triple the 34,556 landings recorded in 2021.

The immigration influx has led some conservatives to question the effectiveness of Giorgia Meloni’s administration, which was primarily elected on a ticket to reduce immigration.

Despite pledging to maintain a hardline stance, Meloni has opted for a far more internationalist approach to the migration issue than many expected, backing down from her opposition to the EU’s migration pact and easing restrictions on legal migrants wishing to come to Italy.

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