The German captain of a ship that rescued 53 refugees at sea was arrested Saturday after she attempted to dock at Italy’s Lampedusa port.
Italy’s far-right, anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini accused 31-year-old Sea-Watch 3 captain Carola Rackete of attempting to “sink” a police boat while docking her vessel, which he described as “an act of war.”
“We say bravo to the captain. She never gave up, she was always brave, she always encouraged us too.”
—Khadim Diop, 24-year-old refugee from Senegal
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As the Associated Press reported, Rackete could face up to ten years in prison if convicted.
Salvini’s refusal to allow Rackete to dock resulted in a tense 16-day standoff in the Mediterranean, with Rackete urging the Italian government to allow her desperate passengers off the ship.
“This is not a game, we’re not playing. We need to get these people off this ship,” said Chris Grodotzki, spokesman for the humanitarian organization Sea Watch, which operates the rescue ship. “We will not wait another night. We are prepared to disembark them ourselves if the authorities continue to neglect their responsibility.”
Thirteen migrants were allowed off the ship for medical reasons on Thursday and Friday, and the remaining refugees were let off the vessel on Saturday.
According to AP, the rescued migrants “hugged personnel of the German Sea-Watch charity who helped them during their 17 days at sea. Some kissed the ground after disembarking from Sea-Watch 3.”
France, Germany, Finland, Luxembourg, and Portugal are expected to take in the refugees.
In a statement, Sea Watch chairman Johannes Bayer praised Rackete for doing “exactly the right thing.”
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