The ship belonging to the Italian NGO Mediterranea, with 41 migrants aboard that it rescued in the Mediterranean, arrived at the port of Lampedusa island without authorization and despite a ban imposed by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
The vesse entered Italian territorial waters on Saturday and finally anchored at Lampedusa with all the migrants packed on its deck, protecting themselves from the sun with thermal blankets, as could be seen in a TV broadcast by the NGO, reports Efe news.
Police, Red Cross volunteers and other humanitarian organizations were waiting at the dock along with other people who received the sailboat with cheers and applause.
Salvini maintains a closed-door policy toward NGOs, accusing them of promoting illegal immigration, and has issued a decree that imposes a fine of up to 50,000 euros ($56,000) on whoever violates that ruling.
Mediterranea’s vessel saved 54 immigrants on June 27 in international waters off the Libyan coast, and after the evacuation of 13 people between pregnant women and children, the others remained crowded together on the sailboat’s deck.
The NGO had reported that the situation on board was unsustainable, given the lack of bathrooms (the sailboat has a capacity for 18 passengers) and for that reason has invoked a state of necessity to break through Salvini’s blockade.
“Faced with the intolerable hygienic-sanitary condition aboard, Alex has declared a ‘state of necessity’ and is headed to the port of Lampedusa, the only possible safe port for disembarking,” the NGO announced on Twitter.
Salvini had requested that it head for Malta, which had offered the Port of Valetta, but the NGO refused because it was too far away, some 144 km for such an overloaded sailboat.
Mediterranea thus follows the example of the captain of the Sea Watch 3 vessel, the German Carola Rackete, who entered the Lampedusa port last June 29 with 40 immigrants aboard after waiting for 17 days, for which she was sentenced to preventive house arrest and later freed by the justice system, much to Salvini’s anger.
There is also another ship waiting for a safe port off the coast of Lampedusa. That is the Alan Kurdi vessel of the German NGO Sea-Eye, with 65 migrants aboard who were rescued in the Mediterranean.