Italy seizes German-flagged migrant rescue boat over safety rules

Italy’s coastguard says Sea-Watch 3 violated safety rules and it must fix the irregularities before resuming operations

Italian authorities have seized a boat operated by a German charity that last month rescued more than 200 people stranded at sea because it did not comply with safety rules, according to the coastguard.

In April, Italy banned migrant rescue ships from docking in its ports until July 31 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It transfers all those saved at sea onto large ferries which must wait off its coast.

Sea-Watch 3, managed by German non-governmental organisation Sea-Watch, had moored in the southern Italian port of Porto Empedocle.

The mainly African passengers were moved to the Italian ferry Moby Zaza, where 28 tested positive for the new coronavirus.


In a statement posted on Twitter on Thursday, the coastguard said an inspection had found a number of irregularities that threatened the safety of those on board and the ship must fix them before resuming operations.

Official data suggest Africa has been less badly affected by COVID-19 than many other parts of the world, but Libyan health authorities reported a surge in cases in June and blamed the repatriations of nationals from abroad.

Migrant arrivals in Italy fell in 2019 following a crackdown in Libya against people smugglers, but they have picked up again this year, with 6,195 landings to date, compared with 2,445 in the same period of 2019.

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