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‘Someone who saves lives is not a criminal’

International reaction to arrest of Carola Rackete for rescuing 53 migrants in the Mediterranean.

Sea Watch 3 Captain, Carola Rackete Image: Sea Watch

A number of online petitions have been launched to express solidarity with rescue vessel Sea Watch 3 captain Carola Rackete, calling on the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Commission, and the European Court of Human Rights for support.

Rackete was arrested on 29 June for docking the vessel Sea Watch 3 with 53 rescued migrants on board in the port of Lampedusa, Italy. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

A photograph of Rackete under arrest was then leaked and circulated on social media. Davide Farone, an Italian politician denounced the act and called for action to be taken against the “delinquent” responsible.

Journalist Paolo Borrometi also expressed his solidarity, calling the leak a “disgrace” and Roberto Saviano decried sexist and derogatory personal attacks levied against the captain.

Supporters have also raised over €1 million to cover her legal costs. German TV personality Jan Bohermann, who was involved in the fundraising effort, said: “We are convinced that someone who saves lives is not a criminal. Anyone that thinks otherwise is simply wrong”.

The General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists, Ricardo Gutierrez, was among those who signed the petition for her release.

On 12 June, the vessel run by the organisation Sea Watch picked up 53 migrants in the Mediterranean, not far from the coast of Libya. The organisation refused an offer to dock at Tripoli, due to the fact that Libya was not deemed a safe place. Under maritime law, those rescued at sea must be taken to the nearest safe harbour – in this case Lampedusa.

Two days later, Italy closed its ports to migrant rescue ships and Italian interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused to let Sea Watch 3 dock, although he did allow the disembarkation of 10 migrants including those who were unwell and pregnant women.

On 28 June, France, Finland, Luxembourg and Portugal offered to take in the migrants. At this point, Rackete had observed that the passengers who had been stranded on the boat for 16 days were exhausted. The following day, she took the decision to dock at Lampedusa without authorisation.

Rackete was arrested and the migrants were not allowed off the ship. Salvini said he would not allow them to disembark until the countries who said they would take the migrants provided “numbers, timelines and means”. 

He also accused Rackete of an “act of war” for allegedly trying to sink an Italian patrol boat. He demanded that The Netherlands, where the vessel is registered, intervene.

#FreeCarola#FreeRackete

Posted by Ricardo Gutiérrez on Sunday, 30 June 2019

The captain denied Salvini’s accusations and told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera; “It was not my intention to endanger anyone”.

Comments on social media drew attention to the hypocrisy of outrage expressed when a few days earlier a father and daughter, Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria,
drowned trying to cross borders.

Photo by Julia Le Duc/AP/Shutterstock

In a recent report from Open Democracy, it was noted that at least 250 people had been arrested in 14 countries over the last five years for showing support and solidarity to migrants.  Italy, where far-right politician Salvini has made anti-migrant sentiment a hallmark of his politics, topped the list.

According to the report, individuals have been arrested for providing food, shelter, transport and medical care to migrants without legal papers. Priests, firefighters and elderly women were among those charged.

In Malta, the government came under fire for prosecuting the Captain of the MV Lifeline, Claus Peter Reisch over clams he didn’t have the necessary paperwork for the vessel. He was fined €10,000.

Earlier this year, the Maltese authorities filed terrorism charges against three teenage migrants for ‘hijacking’ a small commercial vessel that rescued them. They were among 108 other migrants who showed “clear signs of torture” and they forced the crew to take them to Malta instead of  back to Libya. 

The United Nations called for the charges of terrorism made against the 15,16 and 19-year olds to be dropped.

Muscat protected his friends, not the national interest

Petra Caruana Dingli at The Shift News

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