High-level support and more than $1 million in donations have poured in for the German captain of a migrant rescue ship who was arrested after she defied repeated orders to stay out of Italy and struck a police boat while bringing 40 people to port.Source: AP
Asylum seeker rescue ship captain receives wide support after ramming into border police boat
Carola Rackete remained under house arrest a day after her ship, the Sea-Watch 3, rammed the Italian border police motorboat that was blocking the entry to the port at Italy’s Lampedusa island.
Ms Rackete, 31, “had no intention of hurting anyone” and only wanted to get her passengers to land, Italian lawyer Salvatore Tesoriero said.
The Sea-Watch 3 picked up the migrants adrift in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya on June 12 and had been in a standoff with Italian authorities for weeks before the captain decided to force the issue, reportedly saying she feared some of her passengers might harm themselves.
“Whoever saves lives isn’t a criminal,” two German TV personalities wrote in an appeal for contributions to help support Rackete and Sea-Watch, the German non-profit group that owns the rescue ship.
More than 24,000 donors responded, giving over 655,000 euros ($1.06 million) as of Sunday evening.
Ms Rackete could face up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted of resisting a warship, a charge that refers to ploughing into the border police motorboat.
She also could be fined up to 50,000 euros ($81,000) under a recent law designed to strengthen Italian Government policies targeting private migrant rescue vessels.
The Sea-Watch 3 entered Lampedusa’s port 17 days after it picked up 53 migrants off Libya; 13 of the rescued passengers were allowed to disembark earlier for medical reasons.
Italy’s response comes under fire
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier questioned Italy’s handling of the situation.
“Italy is at the heart of the European Union, a founding state of the European Union,” Mr Steinmeier told German public broadcaster ZDF in an interview.
“And that’s why we can expect a country like Italy to deal with such a case differently.”
His comments were met with a swift retort from Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who earlier called the Sea-Watch 3 captain a “criminal” who committed an “act of war” by ignoring orders to keep out of Italy’s waters.
“We ask the German President to keep busy with what’s happening in Germany and possibly invite his fellow citizens to avoid breaking Italian laws, risking the killing of Italy’s law enforcement forces,” Mr Salvini said in a tweet.
No one was injured when Sea-Watch 3 struck the border police vessel, but Italian authorities said some officers had to scramble out of the way and the motorboat’s side was damaged.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said Ms Rackete could have sailed to many other ports in the Mediterranean to seek permission to dock. He accused the captain of carrying out “political blackmail … using 40 people”.
Some in Germany agreed with the Italian Government’s position.
Petr Bystron, a foreign policy spokesman for the far-right Alternative For Germany party, said Ms Rackete was “a common criminal.” Speaking to German daily newspaper Welt, Mr Bystron said she should have taken the rescued migrants to Africa or the Netherlands since the ship sailed under the Dutch flag.