Italy to Impound NGO Migrant Ferries

Matteo Salvini

The Italian government has announced that it may take in migrants from two NGO ‘rescue’ ships, but may seize the vessels for allegedly flying the Dutch flag illegally.

The two ships, the Lifeline and the Seefuchs, operated by the Mission Lifeline NGO, have so far not attempted to access any Italian ports after being told that their ships would be impounded, Europe 1 reports.

Danilo Toninelli, Italian transportation minister, said that once docked the two ships “will be sequestered by the Italian government and directed in our ports to check their flag of membership.”

Earlier in the week Deputy Prime Minister and interior minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the populist La Lega, banned the vessels from Italian ports, much in the same way he banned the Aquarius, operated by SOS Mediterranee, earlier this month.

The ship eventually detoured to Spain with 629 migrants at the invitation of Madrid’s new Socialist prime minister, bypassing a number of safe ports in Tunisia and Algeria.

Following the move, Salvini’s polling numbers have enjoyed a dramatic rise, with a recent poll showing La Lega the most popular party in the country for the first time, ahead of coalition partners the Five-Star Movement (M5S).

Last week Toninelli called on both vessels to return to the Netherlands since the Dutch flag was being flown on both ships, saying on Twitter: “The NGO Dutch ships Lifeline and Seefuchs stationed for hours in Libyan waters. In violation of the code of conduct because they have no means and personnel suitable to save a large number of people.”

On Thursday a Dutch delegation to the EU claimed that neither of the ships was registered in the Netherlands, which the NGO countered by posting documentation on Twitter which they said showed they were registered to fly under the Dutch flag.


Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at) 


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