Italy Arrests Migrant Transporter, Impounds NGO Vessel

Salvini
Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

ROME — Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini cried victory Saturday morning after police arrested the captain of the migrant transport vessel Sea-Watch 3 for disobeying military orders not to dock at a port in Lampedusa.

Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini cried victory Saturday morning after police arrested the captain of the migrant transporting vessel Sea-Watch 3 for disobeying military orders not to dock at a port in Lampedusa.

The 31-year-old German captain of the NGO ship, Carola Rackete, had been defying Mr Salvini, insisting that she would dock at Lampedusa together with the 42 African migrants she was carrying despite lacking permission to do so.

Salvini has not ceased calling out the renegade captain as a “criminal” and a “pirate”, vowing he would make sure she was brought to justice for her defiance of the Italian state. On Saturday, he tweeted out a video of the arrest with the caption: “Captain Arrested, Vessel Impounded.”

For days Italian security forces “have been defending Italian rule of law and borders, forced into extraordinary measures by a pirate ship and some left-wing MPs (including a former minister) who instead of standing with the law enforcement and Italy have chosen to side with a German NGO,” Salvini said.

Moreover, in attempting to dock her craft, Ms Rackete crushed a patrol boat, the minister noted, while “left-wing MPs applauded the outlaw commander.”

Police cuffed Rackete for disobeying a military vessel, after docking the ship into port without permission. A coastguard boat had sought to prevent her from docking by sailing back and forth between the vessel and the wharf.

As Rackete descended from the vessel, she was met with applause and whistles, with a number of onlookers shouting: “We want to see the handcuffs.”

As pundits noted this week, in reality Ms Rackete was challenging not only the authority of Mr Salvini, but also the president and the parliament of the Italian republic.

According to analyst Giorgio Gandola, Ms Rackete’s interest in the 42 migrants aboard her vessel was marginal, while her true objective was creating an international incident by confronting Mr Salvini and drawing attention to herself.

Rackete had already said that “for me, Lampedusa is the only option,” discarding a priori any other port to disembark her passengers, including Spanish ports that would have shortened her 1400-km journey considerably and an offer from nearby Tunisia to receive the migrants there.

“It is clear that a German NGO vessel flying a Dutch flag, which picks up immigrants in Libyan waters and does not go to Tunisia or to Malta, but heads straight for Italy, disobeying the finance police, the Government, the Navy, everyone, does so for reasons of a political battle,” Mr Salvini said on Twitter.

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