Italy on Thursday said that it would seize two rescue migrant ships, one of which is stranded in the Mediterranean carrying more than 200 migrants, adding that they were “illegally” flying the Dutch flag.
The ships Lifeline and Seefuchs, of German non-governmental organization (NGO) Mission Lifeline, “will be seized by the Italian government and directed into our ports” to launch an investigation into their legal status, Italian Minister of Infrastructures and Transports Danilo Toninelli said.
The announcement comes after Italy’s new populist government earlier this month refused to take in the Aquarius rescue ship, carrying about 630 migrants, sparking an EU migration row.
Lifeline rescued 226 migrants off the coast of Libya on Thursday morning, the NGO said in a statement.
Italian Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini had earlier said that the ship, which flies under the Dutch flag, should “go to Holland.”
“Foreign NGO boats will never touch Italian soil again,” he said in a Facebook post.
However, Toninelli later said that the Dutch government denied that the ship was registered in their nation.
Responding to a request from the Italian government, the Netherlands said the ship was “unlawfully, illegally flying the Dutch flag,” Toninelli said in a Facebook video.
The Dutch representation to the EU tweeted that the ships Seefuchs and Lifeline did not sail under the Dutch flag.
“These ships belong to a German NGO and do not appear in the Dutch naval registers,” the tweet said.
Toninelli accused Lifeline of contravening international law by taking the migrants aboard despite the fact that the Libyan coast guard was already intervening.
He added that the ship was putting the migrants’ lives in danger, saying the ship had a “capacity to carry 50 people,” but had taken onboard more than 200.
However, unlike Salvini, Toninelli said Italy would take in the migrants.
Italy “will once again save the migrants” and transfer them onto Italian boats, Toninelli said.
“And we will seize the ship,” he said, adding that the Seefuchs would receive the same treatment.
“For us, saving lives, but safely and legally comes first,” he said, branding the rescue ships as “irresponsible.”
Questioned about Lifeline’s fate at a rally in the city of Terni on Thursday evening, Salvini said: “It’s a pirate ship, like Captain Hook’s,” Italian news agency AGI reported. “I don’t want ghost ships in Italian ports. If they come to Italy, we will denounce them to the authorities for facilitating illegal immigration.”
Salvini has repeatedly accused NGOs of being complicit with human smugglers operating in Libya.
In a statement, Lifeline said it had rescued the migrants “in line with all international regulations” and called for a “port of safety to disembark those rescued.”
The NGO said it feared “a similar situation to the Aquarius could be on the horizon.”
Earlier this month, Salvini refused to open Italian ports to the Aquarius, leaving it stranded in the Mediterranean. The ship was eventually taken to the port of Valencia in Spain.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
‘SHOW RESTRAINT’: Kismayo elder Adan Jama said that dead bodies were strewn in the battle zone and civilians were fleeing as the fighting had affected several villages At least 20 people have been killed in southern Somalia in clashes between militia from rival clans fighting over land, officials and witnesses said on Thursday. Tensions between fighters from the Owrmale and Majerten clans, which live about 30km outside the southern city of Kismayo, have been rising in recent weeks. “The fighting intensified today, and 20 people from the two sides were killed and dozen others including civilians wounded. This is a horrible situation that needs to be stopped,” local government official Abdikarin Mohamed said. “The dead bodies are strewn in the battle zone and civilians are fleeing as the fighting has