The "Sea Watch 3" of the German relief organization of the same name has been languishing for two weeks just outside the Italian territorial waters off Lampedusa, Europe's southernmost point. The island is within sight of the ship, less than two hours drive away.
On the deck there are 42 refugees in the confined space, under the scorching sun of the southern Mediterranean. "The migrants are desperate, some are threatening a hunger strike, others want to jump into the sea or cut their wrists," said the ship's commander, Carola Rackete, yesterday to the Italian newspaper "La Repubblica".
The young captain from Lower Saxony had asked for the safekeeping of the refugees by radio to assign a safe harbor – but received both from the Italian and the Maltese authorities a rejection. "Dutch ship, German aid organization – that is half of the migrants to Amsterdam, the other half to Berlin. And then confiscation of the pirate ship. Point, "tweeted Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the right-wing populist Lega.
Thanks to a new decree, which he boxed a few days ago by the Parliament, Salvini can now deny vessels that he considers a "threat to national security", the entry into Italian territorial waters. Ship crews who do not comply threaten penalties up to 50,000 euros.
Bring refugees to Lampedusa
After the week-long war of nerves Carola Rackete now wants to accept this: She explained that she would bring the refugees despite the ban to Lampedusa. "I have no choice, because the migrants on board are at the end of their power," she said. She, too, is drawn by the waiting at sea and says that she can hardly sleep at night.
In the absence of Salvini's orders in Italy, Rackete knows she is risking not only high penalties and confiscation of her ship, but also charges of assisting in illegal immigration and forming a criminal organization. If convicted, she faces a long prison sentence. "I hope the Italian judges will find that we are neither a tug nor a danger to national security, as Salvini claims."
The refugees were rescued from distress by the 22-member crew of "Sea Watch 3" on the morning of June 12 off the Libyan coast. At that time there were still 53 people. Eleven of them have meanwhile landed Italy on land: pregnant women, infants and the sick.
The proposal Salvinis to bring the remaining migrants to Holland or Germany, Rackete described as ridiculous: "One would have to circle all over Europe." However, on Tuesday evening, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the Italian authorities and dismissed a complaint lodged by the captain and her 42 passengers. There were no compelling reasons for the transport of refugees to Lampedusa requested by Sea Watch 3, since they did not irreparable damage to life and limb.
The young captain of "Sea Watch 3", which is now facing her most difficult decision to date, has studied nautical science and then trained as a skipper; In addition, she has a Master in Nature Conservation. Before joining the Sea Watch organization in 2016, she participated in polar expeditions on icebreakers; later she also drove for "Greenpeace".
Compared to "La Repubblica" she said that she had an "easy life": "I have a white skin color, I was born in a rich country, I have the right passport, I was allowed to visit three universities and I had 23 Years my degree. I feel a moral obligation to help those people who did not have my qualifications, "says Carola Rackete.