Published: Tue, July 02, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Asselborn appeals for Sea-Watch captain's release

Asselborn appeals for Sea-Watch captain's release

A war of words broke out between Germany and Italy on Sunday after Carola Rackete, who spent two weeks in worldwide waters with dozens of rescued African migrants, was arrested on Saturday when the Sea-Watch 3 ship docked at the island port of Lampedusa without permission.

On Saturday, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini ordered her arrest as well as the sequestering of Sea-Watch 3 once the migrants had stepped ashore.

Rackete, a volunteer for German charity Sea-Watch, has become a symbol of divisions in Italy over the government's policy of closing ports to non-government (NGO) rescue ships.

Italian media reports said she was likely to be released pending trial.

The case has sparked two fundraising appeals for Rackete's legal costs, which have collectively raised nearly 1.2 million euros ($1.36 million).

Germany's foreign minister says the captain of a migrant rescue ship in Italian custody should be released because saving lives is a humanitarian act, not criminal.

Rackete's father said that while Carola does not like being in the spotlight, he was not anxious for her now, adding: "I was anxious when she hitchhiked through China and camped on the Great Wall".

The Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch 3, operated by German charity Sea-Watch, was at sea for more than two weeks with rescued Africans on board.

As she was entering Lampedusa port, Rackete allegedly steered the vessel in the direction of a government boat that had sought to block her from entering.

Following the news about the arrest of the German sea captain, German television presenters Jan Boehmermann and Klaas Heufer-Umlauf have published a video calling for donations to the humanitarian aid organization Sea-Watch.

They were finally allowed to disembark at Lampedusa and taken to a reception centre as they prepared to travel to either France, whose interior ministry said it would take in 10 of them, or to Germany, Finland, Luxembourg or Portugal.

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Migrants disembark from the Ducth-flagged Sea-Watch 3 ship, at Lampedusa island's harbor, Italy, Saturday, June 29, 2019. "Every day we have what we call ghost disembarkations, and ghost ships, full of desperate people and migrants coming to our coast", Lindardi said. She could face 10 years in jail if convicted.

Her arrest prompted a fundraising appeal launched by two prominent German TV stars, which had raised more than €350,000 (£314,000) by midday on Sunday.

Local residents and associations in the Sicilian port town of Porto Empedocle gathered to show their support for Captain Carole Rakete of the search-and-rescue ship Sea Watch 3.

But she has drawn criticism from some by knocking the police boat, which was attempting to stop her from docking.

In a stream of tweets, the latest on Friday, Salvini has called her a pirate and outlaw, and drawn attention to her motivation for captaining a rescue vessel.

At Italy's insistence, five fellow European Union nations including Germany said they would take the remaining 40 migrants who landed on Lampedusa.

German-born Rackete was arrested on Saturday after docking her ship on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

In the case of the Sea-Watch, the vessel was first asked to return the migrants to warring Libya.

The boat has been impounded and is liable for a fine of up to €50,000 euros.

German leader Angela Merkel met with Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday, where he said he could not intervene with judicial affairs.

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