The captain of a charity-run migrant rescue ship refused Italian orders to leave a Sicilian port Sunday after authorities refused to let 35 of the migrants on his ship disembark — part of directives by Italy’s new far-right-led government targeting foreign-flagged rescue ships.
Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni’s two-week-old government is refusing safe port to four ships operating in the central Mediterranean that have rescued migrants at sea in distress, some as many as 16 days ago, and is allowing only those identified as vulnerable to disembark.
On Sunday, Italy ordered the Humanity 1 to vacate the port of Catania after disembarking 144 rescued migrants, including with children, more than 100 unaccompanied minors and people with medical emergencies.
But its captain refused to comply “until all survivors rescued from distress at sea have been disembarked,” said SOS Humanity, the German charity that operates the ship. The vessel remained moored at the port with 35 migrants on board.
Later Sunday, a second charity ship arrived in Catania, and the vetting process was being repeated with the 572 migrants aboard the Geo Barents ship operated by Doctors Without Borders. The selection was completed by late evening, with 357 allowed off but 215 people blocked on board.
Yet two other boats run by non-governmental organizations remained stuck at sea with no port willing to accept the people they rescued.