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On January 19th, a rescue ship run by a German humanitarian group flying a Dutch flag saved 47 refugees from a sinking rubber boat off the Libyan coast. The ship, the Sea- Watch 3, has been docked off the Italian coast for almost two weeks because Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio says the ship must go to the Netherlands or France, who he has accused on several occasions of shirking their responsibilities to take in refugees. The Dutch government refused to accept the ship because as they do not claim responsibility for the refugees, insisting that the vessel’s captain ought to find a place to take them.
In a statement, the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Safety explained that “those who are not entitled to international protection need to be sent back immediately of arrival at European borders” and that they would not be taking any Sea Watch migrants until a long term solution was agreed upon. In response, the office of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said they would hand the matter over to the European Court of Human Rights.
With all the debates over responsibility for the rescued migrants the last couple weeks, the ship was finally allowed to dock in the Sicilian port of Catania after six countries agreed to take them in, but their problems are not over yet. The Italian Interior Minister warned that he may take legal action against the Sea Watch’s crew, because he thinks they went straight to Italy instead of a closer port. If, as experts fear, the ship is impounded at the port there will be no more charity rescue ships in the Mediterranean to save refugees.
This is the second time in a month that the Sea Watch has been denied entry; that standoff lasted 19 days and ended with 8 EU member states, including Italy, agreeing to accept the saved migrants. The migrant crisis into Europe is very political and dangerous for those saved from sinking asscaped ship. Thousands of lives will continue be at stake if there is no comprehensive agreement in place as to where vessels with rescued migrants can safely and legally dock.