Italy Seizes NGO Vessel That Brought In Coronavirus Positive Migrants


Italian authorities have seized the Sea-Watch 3 vessel, citing several “irregularities” after the ship brought over 200 migrants to Italy last month, many of them infected with the Chinese coronavirus.

The vessel has been docked at the Sicilian port of Porto Empedocle for several weeks after dropping off migrants on June 25th and was under quarantine due to the fact at least 28 of the migrants on board later tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Italian Coast Guard commented on the seizure of the vessel, saying they had found “many technical and operational irregularities that endangered the safety of not only the crew but also those who had been rescued or were to be rescued,” local newspaper La Sicilia reports.

The coast guard added that the vessel would remain in administrative seizure until the problems on board were addressed by the crew and by the country whose flag the vessel displays, which in this case is Germany.

The seizure is not the first time that Germany-based NGOs fell afoul of Italian authorities in recent years.

Last year, an NGOs migrant transport captained by German pro-migration activist Carola Rackete rammed an Italian patrol boat after being banned from entering a port on the island of Lampedusa by former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.

Rackete was later arrested, and the ship seized by Italian authorities — but eventually released in December 2019.

Sea-Watch is among several migrant transport NGOs once again active in the Libyan search and rescue (SAR) area. NGOs began to resume operations after the coronavirus lockdown measures started to be eased in Italy and elsewhere.

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


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