German rescue ship heads to Malta after Italy blocks Lampedusa port - The Libyan Report

German rescue ship heads to Malta after Italy blocks Lampedusa port

German NGO Sea-Eye said on Saturday that its rescue vessel Alan Kurdi operating in the central Mediterranean would head to Malta after being denied access to Italian territorial waters near the island of Lampedusa.

Italy has banned humanitarian vessels rescuing migrants off the coast of Libya from accessing life-saving ports.

"In the evening, the Alan Kurdi changed its course towards Malta," Sea-Eye said in a tweet. "Now it has to be proven whether the European governments stand by Italy's attitude. Human lives are not a bargaining chip."

Read more: Europe's migrant rescue boats face uncertain future

'Bad conditions'

Sea-Eye's Marcel Ditt, who is on board the Alan Kurdi, told DW on Saturday that the boat's crew had rescued 65 migrants, many of them unaccompanied minors.

"All of them are very exhausted, some of them are in bad condition, you can see that they have been in a horrible place for months," Ditt said. "We started talking to some of them, and some have been in detention centers in Libya for five years."

The Alan Kurdi rescued the migrants off the coast of Libya but refused to make port in the North African country, saying the country wasn't safe and that international law required those rescued be brought to a safe port.

The Sea-Eye's decision to head to Malta comes hours after an Italian rescue ship of the humanitarian group Mediterranea disobeyed Italian orders and docked in Lampedusa. Migrants on board were allowed to disembark on Sunday.

Read more: Sea-Watch rescuers slam 'shameful' German, EU refugee policy

Sea-Eye crew members told DW they refused to hand over the migrants to Libyan authorities, citing unsafe conditions in the country

German appeal

Italy is under pressure to provide much-needed assistance to migrants rescued at sea after authorities attempted to physically block the Sea-Watch 3 from landing in Lampedusa. German captain Carola Rackete was arrested shortly after, triggering an outcry from many European citizens.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, once adamant about preventing irregular migrants from entering Germany, urged Italy's hard-line Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to open the ports.

Seehofer said he proposed taking in some of the migrants on the ships under a European solution that would be coordinated by Brussels.

"We cannot be responsible for ships with rescued people aboard being adrift for weeks on the Mediterranean," Seehofer said in his appeal.

Nearly half a million irregular migrants have crossed the Mediterranean and made landfall in Italy since 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration. Since January, 426 migrants have died attempting the perilous journey.

Read more: Follow the money: What are the EU's migration policy priorities?

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Germans march in solidarity with Sea-Watch 'Sea-Watch 3 saves lives' 3,000 people joined the solidarity rally with Sea-Watch in Germany's port city of Hamburg. The German captain of the Sea-Watch 3 rescue vessel, Carola Rackete, has been charged in Italy for docking her vessel at the port of Lampedusa despite an order from the the government banning new refugees from being allowed on Italian soil.

Germans march in solidarity with Sea-Watch Local hero Despite earning the ire of the Italian government, for many at home Rackete is a hero for saving the lives of asylum-seekers during the dangerous Mediterranean crossing. On top of criticizing Italy's anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Rackete has also criticized his German counterpart, Horst Seehofer.

Germans march in solidarity with Sea-Watch Nationwide rallies Demonstrations were also held in Bonn, Münster, Frankfurt, Oldenburg, Bielefeld, Bremen, and here in Cologne. About 7,000 people attended the Cologne rally in opposition to attempts from nationalist governments to close their ports to rescued migrants.

Germans march in solidarity with Sea-Watch 'Sea-bridge' Seebrücke, or 'Sea-bridge', is the name of the organization that called Saturday's protests. "Seebrücke makes harbors safe," this banner in Cologne declares.

Germans march in solidarity with Sea-Watch Protest in Seehofer's backyard In Munich in Bavaria, the state Interior Minister Horst Seehofer used to be premier of, thousands of citizens demanded Germany support the rescue and safety of refugees. Seehofer has been one of the few in Germany's federal government to take a hard-line immigration stance in recent years.

Germans march in solidarity with Sea-Watch On Merkel's doorstep In Berlin, the demonstrators brought their protest to the doors of the federal Chancellery building. Chancellor Angela Merkel has not weighed in on the plight of Sea-Watch captain Carola Rackete, who is preparing to sue Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for slander. Author: Elizabeth Schumacher

ls/sms (AFP, dpa, AP) source