ROME – The captain of a migrant rescue vessel at the heart of a stand-off with Italian authorities has been placed under house arrest after she docked the boat in a port on the island of Lampedusa without authorization.
Carola Rackete, 31, captain of the German NGO vessel Sea Watch 3, has been accused of “resisting a warship” after entering the island’s port early Saturday with 40 migrants on board following a 17-day stand-off with the Italian government.
One of her legal advisors, Leonardo Marino told Efe that after spending much of the night at the police headquarters on the small Mediterranean island, the captain had since been transferred to house arrest pending confirmation of the accusation she violated a navigation code related to resisting or committing a violent act against a warship.
Marino said that Rackete, who is German, had not yet been interrogated. She was under a lot of stress and was exhausted from working overnight with her legal team, he said.
Rackete navigated Sea Watch 3 to port at around 1.50 am local time and collided with a police patrol boat in the process.
She was then arrested and brought to the police station to be accused of “resisting a warship,” a charge that can carry a 10-year prison sentence in Italy.
Authorities were already investigating the captain for allegedly facilitating illegal immigration.
Moreover, the Italian government, an anti-establishment/far-right coalition, recently approved a decree prohibiting ships from entering Italy’s territorial waters without authorization, meaning authorities could fine Rackete 50,000 euros ($56,805) and seize Sea Watch 3.
“They are investigating me but at the same time saying they won’t help us disembark the survivors. This means we are waiting for a solution that won’t come. Therefore we have decided to enter the port, which is now free,” Rackete said in a video on Twitter.
Sea Watch CEO, Johannes Bayer, said the NGO was proud of her actions.
Meanwhile, Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini hailed her arrest during an interview with public radio station RAI1.
The anti-immigration politician, who leads the far-right League party, branded her behavior “criminal.”
The Dutch-flagged vessel rescued 53 people – 39 men, nine women, two small children and three unaccompanied minors – from the Mediterranean Sea on June 12.
Three days later, the Italian Coast Guard carried out an inspection of the boat and decided to evacuate 12 people who were at risk of medical issues.