This one regards the rescue of those escaping from northern Africa and their disposition on arrival on European shores. The particular case concerns Italy’s arrest of a German national who is the captain of an NGO ship that had rescued a number of refugees whose ship was in danger in international waters in the middle of the Mediterranean. Carola Rakete, captain of the Sea-Watch 3, was arrested after she docked her ship at Italy’s Lampedusa, an island in the southern Med—and closer to Tunisia than to any land of Italy’s.
UK [and UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres] spokeswoman Stephane Dujarric said in a daily press briefing that “no vessel or ship master should be at risk of being fined for coming to the aid of boats in distress, where loss of life is imminent.”
“Sea rescue is a longstanding humanitarian imperative. It’s also an obligation under international law.”
Dujarric went on:
the UN was “concerned by the recent decree from the government regarding NGO vessels.”
She was referring to Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s successful implementation of legislation to fine ships that flout orders to stay out of Italian waters.
Dujarric is mischaracterizing the situation, and a part of the incident that matters has been omitted by Deutsche Welle in its piece at the link. Italy has not criminalized rescue on the high seas. Italy has only responded to the illegal entry into Italian waters, compounded by the illegal entry into an Italian port, by a captain and her vessel that not only had no permission to enter either, she had been explicitly denied that permission.
Furthermore, that denial had been enforced by an Italian police vessel that Rakete rammed and forced her way past as she docked at Lampedusa. That was elided by the DW article.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is upset over the arrest of the German national for her criminal act.
Haggling over refugee distribution is undignified and must stop. We urgently need a European solution—one that is also in line with our European values.
Indeed, the haggling must stop. The EU must respect the European value of territorial integrity of its member nations.
In the end, regardless of what we might think of Italian actions in the present incident, such…confusion…reduces the credibility of those favoring the transfer of rescuees from the rescuing ships to a nation’s shore regardless of that nation’s expressed wishes and of that nation’s laws. And of that nation’s sovereignty.