Sea rescue ship of the organization Sea-Watch: The "Aurora" had dozens of people rescued from distress at sea on board
In the next three weeks, the German sea rescue ship "Aurora" will probably not be able to go on a rescue mission. Italian authorities have temporarily detained the ship. As the Italian news agency Ansa reported on Monday, the coast guard is withdrawing the ship of the German aid organization Sea-Watch from service for 20 days. The organization confirmed the operation.
The reason given was that the ship had disregarded a government decree. The crew of the 14-metre-long boat headed for the island of Lampedusa after rescuing 72 people from the Mediterranean – but the authorities had previously assigned them the port in Trapani in northwestern Sicily.
Threat of a fine
The sea rescuers explained that the port had not been accessible to the ship due to a lack of fuel, and that drinking water had run out on board. "We simply had no other option than to enter Lampedusa," said Sea-Watch head of operations Rebecca Berker in a statement. The organization also demanded the immediate release of the "Aurora". In addition to the imposition, Sea-Watch faces a fine of up to 10,000 euros.
"All 72 rescued people of the Aurora were able to disembark in Lampedusa," the organization wrote on platform X, formerly Twitter. "We are relieved to know our guests are on land, but angry about the inhumane policy on the backs of fleeing people."
The civilian sea rescuers are a thorn in the side of the right-wing Italian government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. In recent weeks, several lifeboats have been taken out of service by Italy's authorities. The "Aurora" was also detained once in June. At that time, it was also about the disregard of the government decree.
Non-governmental organizations have been criticizing the decree for weeks, accusing Prime Minister Meloni's government of harassment. Rome wants to deter foreign helpers through the measures, according to the accusation. The government defends its decision, saying volunteer rescuers disregard rules and do not cooperate with the authorities.
Many people try again and again to reach Italy with often unseaworthy boats from Tunisia and Libya. During the highly dangerous crossings, devastating boat accidents sometimes occur. The Ministry of the Interior in Rome counted more than 105,440 people who reached Italy on boats this year – in the same period last year there were just under 50,760.