Sea-Watch captain arrested as ship docks at Lampedusa

Italian police arrested the German captain of a migrant rescue ship after she docked at the port of Lampedusa. Sea-Watch told DW Italy is the safest option and bringing migrants to Germany is risky and time consuming.

Sea-Watch 3 entered the Italian port of Lampedusa without authorization early Saturday following a two-week standoff between the charity ship’s captain and Italian authorities.

German captain Carola Rackete was arrested as the boat docked with 40 migrants remaining on board, spokesman Ruben Neugebauer told Agence France-Presse. Television footage showed a heavy security presence at the port and police escorting 31-year-old Rackete off the vessel.

Italy had refused the German rescue ship port entry since it picked up 53 migrants who were floating on an inflatable raft off the Libyan coast on June 12.

After waiting at sea for an invitation from Italy or an EU state to accept the ship, Rackete decided to head to Lampedusa, where she was blocked by Italian government vessels.

“Even though in the afternoon the prosecution has opened an investigation against me, at the same time they notified us that they will not help to bring the rescued off the ship,” Rackete said in a video statement on Twitter. “I have decided to enter the harbor, which is free at night, on my own.”

Read more: Germany mulls requests to host Sea-Watch migrants

Italy the safest route

Sea-Watch told DW that its boats are unable to bring migrants to Germany or the Netherlands because both countries are too far away from the search and rescue (SAR) zone off Libya, and this could allow for lives to be lost in the SAR while they were making the journey there and back.

The boats would also have to go via the Atlantic Ocean and through the Gulf of Biscay where the sea is much rougher than in the Mediterranean.

“We cannot impose this rough journey on weakened people which we have rescued from the sea,” a Sea-Watch spokesperson said. “Secondly, we don’t want to send our ship on a 5-week journey to Hamburg when it is desperately needed back in the SAR zone.”

Sea-Watch also said that the law of the sea and several SAR conventions asks rescuers to take rescued people to the nearest place of safety.

EDIT: Does that mean every African in Africa as well as every Arab militant too?