Italy Drops Case Against Migrant Taxi NGO Captain Who Rammed Patrol Boats

BERLIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 30: Carola Rackete, the captain of the Sea-Watch 3, poses for a
Carsten Koall/Getty Images

An Italian judge has agreed to drop a case against German migrant taxi NGO captain and activist Carola Rackete, who rammed several law enforcement boats to get migrants to Italy in 2019.

A Judge for Preliminary Investigations (GIP) closed the case against Rackete on Wednesday after a request from the prosecutor of Agrigento.

A GIP judge had previously ruled in July 2019 that the German national had acted “in a state of need” and recommended the charges be dropped. The Agrigento public prosecutor’s office appealed the judge’s ruling to the Italian supreme court, but the decision was upheld in February 2020.

Prosecutors demanded a six-month extension for the investigation, but due to the Wuhan virus pandemic, court activity was slowed. Only in recent days, the prosecution has decided to ask for the case to be dropped, which was approved, newspaper Il Giornale reports.

The case against Rackete began on June 29th, 2019, when she was serving as the captain of the Sea Watch 3 vessel and, with 42 migrants on board, rammed Guardia di Finanza patrol vessels while trying to reach a port on the island of Lampedusa, despite having been denied access.

Matteo Salvini, who served as interior minister at the time, had enforced a policy of denying port access to migrant taxi NGOs. Salvini reacted to the dropping of the case, saying: “I only say that in 2019, 1,200 illegal immigrants landed. Now we’re almost at 14,000.”

Following Rackete’s initial arrest, Salvini expressed anger when the city of Paris offered the NGO captain and Sea Watch a medal and money for the NGO’s “important action of humanitarian organizations to help migrants”.

“The municipality of Paris awards Carola Rackete, prosecuted in Italy, with a medal. This is the one driving a boat that broke the law and crushed a [Guardia di Finanza] patrol boat against the dock of Lampedusa,” Salvini said in July 2019, adding: “The municipality of Paris evidently has nothing better to do than reward these subjects.”

Sea Watch spokeswoman Giorgia Linardi said the move to drop the case against Rackete was a “logical conclusion”, and the move reiterated principles of retrieving people at sea, arguing the action cannot be criminalised and that a “rescue” can only be concluded after a ship reaches a safe port.

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


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