On May 20, Mediterranean rescue ship Sea Watch-3 was taken into probationary confiscation under the instigation of the far-right Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini for allegedly breaching immigration rules. The prosecutors have put Arturo Centore, the captain of the ship, under investigation for allegedly aiding illegal immigration.
On May 19, with the cooperation of the Italian coast guard and the financial police, a rescue ship of the German aid group Sea Watch disembarked 47 immigrants at the Italian island of Lampedusa. The immigrants were rescued off the Libyan coat on May 15. Salvini, an anti-immigrant hardliner, was outraged by this. He said that he had given permission to disembark only 18 people, mostly families with children, and threatened legal action against the ship and its crew.
Sea Watch International tweeted, “SeaWatch3 is confiscated, lives are at risk. We make the ship ready for mission right away and trust in an independent Italian judiciary that values the constitution above illegal and politically motivated directives.”
The anti-immigrant policies of Salvini have aggravated the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, hampering the crossing of a large number of refugees from war-torn North African countries to Europe. Thousands have died in dangerous attempts to flee in un-seaworthy vessels and tens of thousands have been rescued by coast guards and NGO-run rescue boats. Recently, on May 10, around 60 people ended up dead or missing after a migrant boat, that was headed to Italy from a northern Libyan port, capsized.
Salvini has repeatedly ordered the closure of Italian ports to rescue ships and has tried to curtail their operations. According to the United Nations refugee agency, about 164 people have died on the route between Libya and Europe in the first four months of 2019.