Italian court allows migrant ship to dock, Salvini fights ruling

Migrant rescue ship arrives in Italian port in defiance of Salvini
Copyright 2019 CNN
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini defended the ban that placed a $57,000 fine for migrant rescue ships in Italy, saying that he only targets ships at risk for trafficking.

An Italian court ruled Wednesday that a ship carrying 147 rescued migrants should be allowed to dock in Italy — in defiance of a ban by Italy’s far right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.

The ruling has drawn the ire of Salvini, whose office said the Interior Ministry would propose an urgent appeal.

According to a statement from Salvini’s office, he said: “I continue and will continue to deny the landing to those who claim to bring illegal immigrants always and only in Italy.”

It added that Salvini, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, will continue to defend the country’s borders and say “no to disembarking.”

The Spanish humanitarian ship Open Arms, which was waiting off the Italian island of Lampedusa and has been at sea for 13 days, has been appealing for a place to dock.

Judges justified the tribunal’s decision due to the gravity of the situation and exceptional circumstances, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.

According to Agence France-Presse, the ship is seeking shelter from eight-foot ocean swells alongside the Ocean Viking ship operated by SOS Mediterranea and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which has more than 350 migrants on board.

Both Malta and Italy refused both vessels’ permission to dock, AFP reported.

‘Without fear’

Oscar Camps, founder of the Proactiva Open Arms charity which runs the ship, announced the Lazio Regional Administrative Court’s decision Wednesday.

“We have overturned Salvini’s decree which banned us from entering Italian waters under the threat of confiscating our boat. We can (now) enter Italian waters without fear of being fined or having our boat confiscated,” Camps told media in Madrid.

While the court ruling “says these people must be disembarked,” it does not say at which port, he added, saying they will see how “it evolves over the next hours” on whether the Italian government will “respond to its administration, its justice system.”

Salvini has spearheaded a series of anti-immigrant policies and implemented law and order measures, including shuttering Italy’s ports to migrant rescue vessels in June 2018. And, in July, Italy adopted a decree that could see ships docking without authorization face fines of up to $57,000.

On Wednesday, Salvini took to Facebook to vent his anger over the ruling.

“Think about what a strange country we live in where a lawyer of the Administrative Court of Lazio wants to allow a foreign ship full of foreign immigrants? And I will once again in the following hours sign my no because I will never be an accomplice of traffickers,” he said.

“There is a plan to go backward and open Italian ports, to make Italy return to being Europe’s refugee camp,” he said on Facebook.

On Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued a statement calling on European governments to allow the immediate disembarkation of the more than 500 people on the Open Arms and Ocean Viking.

The agency also reported that nearly 600 people have died or gone missing in the central Mediterranean in 2019.