Italian authorities arrest captain of migrant rescue ship ending standoff

Italian authorities arrested the captain of a migrant rescue vessel Saturday morning after it docked into a port off the Lampedusa island, ending a more than a two-week standoff.

Sea Watch 3 captain Carola Rackete (C) is arrested after entering the port of Lampedusa Saturday morning.

The Sea-Watch 3, after rescuing about 40 migrants off the coast of Libya, sat in the Mediterranean Sea prepared to test new Italian laws closing its ports to such rescue vessels. Italy’s anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had closed the port to fleeing migrants in June 2018.

Sea-Watch 3 captain Carola Rackete said she was determined to get the migrants to safety, knowing that she would get arrested and fined.

“Even though in the afternoon the prosecution has opened an investigation against me, at the same time they notified us that they will not help to bring the rescued off the ship,” Rackete said in a video recorded before the ship was docked. “I have decided to enter the harbor, which is free at night, on my own.”

The German-owned Sea-Watch 3 sails under the flag of the Netherlands. Salvini celebrated Rackete’s arrest on social media while criticizing the Dutch. The ministry said the ship will be confiscated and fined from $23,000 and $57,000.

“Happy Saturday folks,” Salvini said on Facebook, in reference to Rachete’s arrest. “Shame on the silence of the Dutch government.”

The Italian foreign ministry said that Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal stepped up to take in the migrants.

ByClyde Hughes