The Italian Guardia di Finanza fired across the bows of a Tunisian fishing vessel suspected of aiding illegal migration after the boat rammed one of the Italian ships.
The dramatic incident, which took place off the coast of Lampedusa, began after 40 Tunisians landed on the Italian island the day before. Their presence had attracted the attention of the Italian coastguard, which set to sea to investigate and found three boats pretending to fish in Italian waters.
The coast guard then called for backup from the Guardia di Finanza, a militarised police force under the authority of the finance ministry, which later arrived with two more ships. As the Italian ships arrived and fired warning shots in the air, one of the Tunisians’ boats was caught on video ramming the side of one of the Italian vessels, Il Giornale reports.
After the ramming, the commander of one of the Guardia di Finanza ships gave the order to open fire. Shots were fired next to the Tunisian vessel into the water. This scene was also caught on video.
The Italian authorities managed to stop one of the vessels and escort it to Lampedusa, where the captain was arrested on several charges.
Admiral Nicola De Felice commented on the incident, saying: “I very much hope that the Italian justice system will punish with the utmost severity the crew of the Tunisian fishing vessel recently seized by our soldiers of the Guardia di Finanza and the Coastguard in the port of Lampedusa.”
According to Il Giornale, residents of Lampedusa have complained for months about Tunisian fishing boats in Italian territorial waters.
In recent months, Lampedusa has seen a surge of illegal migrants coming primarily from Tunisia. The island had run out of space in August to quarantine migrants to stop the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.
The boats have been joined by a new wave of activity by migrant taxi NGOs such as the German group Sea-Eye. The Lampedusa coastguard had told the German NGO to go to Germany when they attempted to drop off 133 migrants on the island a few weeks ago.
Italian Island of Lampedusa Runs out of Room to Quarantine Arriving Migrants https://t.co/aS0zN6NWF5
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 1, 2020