Migrant rescue ship captain arrested after entering Italian port

The Sea-Watch 3 ship carrying dozens of rescued migrants forced its way into the Italian port of Lampedusa after a lengthy standoff and its captain has been arrested, the charity running the boat said Saturday.

Sea-Watch spokesman Ruben Neugebauer told AFP German captain Carola Rackete, 31, had been arrested after manoeuvring the ship into port without permission on Friday night.

Rackete — a hero to some but a thorn in the side of Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini — was detained for refusing to obey a military vessel, a crime punishable by between three and 10 years in jail.

Offering no resistance, she was escorted off the vessel without handcuffs and taken away in a car.

The 40 migrants still on board were eventually allowed to disembark early
on Saturday and taken to the island’s reception centre, some smiling, others in tears.

The Italian coastguard then took control of the boat, moved it out of the port again and anchored it just off the coast.

The ship docked despite a coastguard boat trying to prevent her from doing so by sailing back and forth between the vessel and the pier, according to the Repubblica daily.

“We put ourselves in the way to prevent (the ship) from entering the port. If we had stayed there, (the vessel) would have destroyed our speedboat,” one of the police officers said in video footage posted on social media.

Residents and activists had gathered on the pier to watch the Sea-Watch 3 dock.

While a group of supporters applauded the ship and its captain, others hailed Rackete’s arrest, shouting “handcuff her”, “shame” and “get lost!”.