German NGO ship sailing to Lampedusa amid fresh migrant stand-off

Rome - By Annette Reuther and Lena Klimkeit, - A German aid organization said Friday its ship with 65 rescued migrants on board was heading to Lampedusa, defying a ban by Italy's government in the latest stand-off over migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

Sea-Eye tweeted that its ship, the Alan Kurdi, was on its way to the Italian island off the African coast, adding: "We are not intimidated by [Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini] but instead head towards the nearest port of safety."
The organization said earlier Friday it had rescued 65 people from a rubber dinghy in international waters off the Libyan coast.
Sea-Eye said it had informed the relevant authorities in Libya, Italy, Malta and Germany about the rescue.
A government spokeswoman in Berlin said that as yet no request to take in the migrants had been received, while a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said a safe port had to be found and discussions held on how to distribute the migrants among EU member states.
Noting that Germany had taken in 227 people rescued from the sea last year, an Interior Ministry spokesman said: "This is a European task, and for that reason there must be several EU states that join in receiving them in the spirit of solidarity."
Sea-Eye later reported on Twitter that "the so-called Libyan coastguard" had advised the Alan Kurdi and its crew to dock in Libya, attaching a screenshot of the email.
In response, the non-governmental organization wrote that it was legally obliged under international conventions to deliver the rescued people to "a place of safety."
"It is sufficiently documented that migrants in Libya are exposed to human trafficking, torture, forced labour, sexual exploitation and arbitrary detention and refugee camps are exposed to missile attacks," the group said in justifying its refusal of the offer.
Sea-Eye is the latest NGO to become mired in controversy for rescuing migrants in distress at sea; Sea-Watch, another German organization, brought 40 people to the port of Lampedusa on Saturday against Rome's orders.
The Sea-Watch 3 spent more than two weeks at sea before its captain, Carola Rackete, forced past Italian customs to dock the ship. She was detained but later released.
Rackete now faces legal action in Italy, and is to appear in court on Tuesday to answer charges of assisting illegal immigration.
"Should it come to an indictment, which we don't expect, I will of course hold strong, because I expect to be acquitted at the latest during court proceedings," Rackete told the broadcaster NDR.
On Friday, her lawyer also said that the captain was charging Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini with defamation for his comments during the lengthy saga.
"We have prepared a legal complaint," Alessandro Gamberini said. He also accused Salvini of inciting criminal conduct. "He is the one who is causing the waves of hatred," Gamberini told Radio Cusano Campus.
Salvini has called for Rackete to be deported and on his Facebook page on Friday termed her "a rich and spoilt German communist."
For her part, Rackete criticized the conduct of German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. "I felt left to my own devices," she told Der Spiegel news magazine.
The various authorities had "passed the problem round like a hot potato while we had 40 rescued people on board."
Referring to Salvini, she said she was surprised at "how personal it has become," calling his behaviour "inappropriate."
Another rescue ship, a sailing boat called the Alex and operated by the Italian organization Mediterranea, is currently awaiting permission to enter port with more than 50 migrants aboard.
Salvini has insisted that it will not be allowed to enter Italy.
Malta has said it is prepared to take in those on board, but only if Italy agrees to take 55 migrants currently in Malta.


Saturday, July 6th 2019
By Annette Reuther and Lena Klimkeit,

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