Asylum seeker rescue ship captain rams Italian border police motorboat


Asylum seeker rescue ship captain arrested after ramming into border police motorboat  The captain of a humanitarian rescue ship has been arrested after ramming her vessel into an Italian border police motorboat while docking at a tiny Mediterranean island in defiance of Italy’s anti-migrant interior minister    Onlookers shouted “handcuffs, handcuffs” as Carola Rackete, the 31-year-old German captain, was escorted off the boat at Lampedusa, which is closer to north Africa than to the Italian mainland  The 40 asylum seekers aboard Ms Rackete’s ship, the Sea-Watch 3, had been rescued from an unseaworthy vessel launched by Libya-based human traffickers  Upon disembarking, some of the asylum seekers kissed the ground, while others hugged staff from the German Sea-Watch charity who helped them during their 17 days at sea  Last week a standoff began when Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused to let them disembark on Lampedusa until other European Union countries agreed to take them    Five nations pledged to do so on Friday: Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal  The humanitarian rescue operation ended dramatically and violently when Ms Rackete decided she could no longer wait for permission to dock given the odyssey of the migrants aboard  “The need which we have on board is psychological and that’s the reason why I declared the state of necessity,” she said of her decision  The captain steered her vessel toward the island before dawn, ramming the much smaller police boat, which was blocking Sea-Watch 3’s path to the dock  Mr Salvini slammed the captain’s defiance, branding her actions as tantamount to an “act of war ” “She tries to sink a patrol boat of the financial police with agents on board at night in Lampedusa,” he said  “The great thing is that they say ‘let’s save lives’. And they risked killing human beings who were doing their job and the videos are obvious  “No-one can pretend to be anything anymore, no-one can lie anymore. These are criminals ” Sea-Watch defended Ms Rackete’s actions, saying in a statement “she enforced the rights of the rescued people to be disembarked to a place of safety” Italians’ acceptance of asylum seekers fading In past years, Lampedusa won international praise for its generous welcome to many of the hundreds of thousands of rescued migrants  But even as asylum seeker numbers dwindled as Italy cracked down on private rescue ships, many Italians lost patience, and Mr Salvini’s anti-migrant League party has soared in popularity    Some on the island applauded when the asylum seekers disembarked.  But another group yelled insults, including “Gypsy, go home” to the captain  A senator from the opposition Democrats, Davide Faraone, filmed the scene and then posted it on Twitter  “You must handcuff her immediately,” a woman shouted before Ms Rackete was hustled into a police car External Link: Tweet    Her lawyer, Leonardo Marino, told Italian state TV she was arrested for investigation of resisting a warship, a reference to ploughing into the motorboat of the customs and border police force  No-one was injured but the motorboat’s side was damaged.  An experienced sailor, Ms Rackete has commanded a handful of rescue missions for Sea-Watch since joining the group in 2016  If convicted, she risks up to 10 years in prison. Any fine might be covered by a reported 100,000 euros supporters in Italy recently donated to help Sea-Watch  Reuters/AP

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