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Arrested and released, Captain Carola Rackete has become the European symbol of solidarity assistance to migrants

July 6th 2019

On the night of June, the 29th, German Carola Rackete, captain of the humanitarian ship Sea-Watch 3, was arrested for forcibly entering the Sicilian port of Lampedusa, in Italy. The previous two weeks, she wandered at sea with about forty migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, without port to be able to welcome them. Forcing the blockade imposed by Italian far-right ruler Matteo Salvini on humanitarian ships rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean, she declared that her assignment was "not an act of violence, but only of disobedience" in a desperate situation whereas the law did not allow her to bring back to Libya people fleeing a country at war.

Three days later, an Italian judge invalidated the arrest, considering that the decree-law passed in June that fines up to 50,000 euros against the captain and the owner of a ship that would enter without authorization in the Italian waters, is not applicable to rescue operations. Carola Rackete is also being investigated for helping illegal immigration, while her ship Sea-Watch 3 has gone into receivership. Migrants arrived in Lampedusa will be sent to different countries of the European Union.

Matteo Salvini denounced this decision. He hammered that he wanted to expel the young captain. However, the NGO Sea-Watch has assured that it will continue its missions to rescue migrants off the coast of Libya. Captain Carola Rackete’s arrest has unleashed a massive solidarity movement in Europe, including through massive petitions. In Germany, more than 300,000 people demonstrated in a hundred cities in solidarity with NGOs that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean and against the criminalisation of their actions. In a message delivered to protesters in Berlin, Carola Rackete, who is still in Italy, said she was "forced to act" by "the irresponsibility of European states." The NGO Sea Watch also collected 1.4 million Euros of donations in recent days.

On July 5, Solidar issued a statement titled "Saving lives is not a crime. NOT to save them is one, Mr Salvini! ". Solidar reminds that the rescue at sea and the reception of asylum seekers is the common responsibility of the whole of Europe (Solidar press release ).

A week after Sea-Watch 3’s issue, a new humanitarian ship, the Alex, forcibly arrived on July, the 6th, in the Italian port of Lampedusa with 41 migrants. Another humanitarian ship from the German NGO Sea-Eye, Alan Kurdi, was waiting off Lampedusa to disembark migrants as well, before heading to Malta.