The NGO migrants rescue Ship Sea Watch is off on another rescue mission off Libya, and the Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, has already warned it that Italy's harbours are close to any disembarkations.
The ship set sail on Saturday after being held up by more than a month by its own flag state, the Netherlands.
'Our harbours are closed,' Salvini said in a tweet in reaction to the news.
Last Tuesday a court in The Hague ruled that the flag state had unlawfully prevented the vessel from leaving port since the beginning of April. Previously, the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management had issued new regulations for ships of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Sea-Watch 3 was the only ship to which the regulations came into immediate effect, without a transitional period which was previously promised by the minister, and then demanded by the judge.
"This obvious political blockade of a civil sea rescue asset has now been lifted by the court following a legal challenge issued by Sea-Watch. The ship is now back on mission and en route to the search and rescue (SAR) zone off Libya," Sea Watch International said.
???? La nave Ong #SeaWatch3 (bandiera olandese) sta navigando nel Mediterraneo in direzione Libia. Avviso ai naviganti: non pensino di aiutare scafisti, imbarcare immigrati e dirigersi verso l’Italia perché verranno fermati, con OGNI MEZZO lecito consentito. #portichiusi pic.twitter.com/LL2lq48Omb— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) May 13, 2019
“Europe is letting people drown as a deterrent to others, who only have the choice between torture and death or the Mediterranean. As long as there is war in Libya and refugees are stuck there, imprisoned in camps under inhuman conditions, they will flee across the sea. As long as Europe denies them safe passage and neglects its obligation to rescue at sea, we will do everything we can to save as many people as possible”, says Philipp Hahn, Head of Mission of Sea-Watch 3.
The Sea Watch has been involved in several stand-offs as both Italy and Malta denied it entry to their harbours.
It rescued some 40 migrants off Libya just before Christmas and was only allowed to transfer them to a Maltese patrol boat on January 9 when Malta made arrangements for the migrants to be shared among several EU countries.
The Sea Watch was blocked in Grand Harbour for several months last year, leading the operators to file a constitutional application demanding compensation from the government.
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