Italy rebuffs German migrant appeal as rescue boat disembarks at Lampedusa

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Migrants on a rescue boat that breached a ban on docking in Italy for the second time in a week, arriving illegally in Lampedusa, disembarked on Sunday after the vessel was impounded, as Italy rejected a German call to open its ports to charity vessels.

Italy’s migration policy is deepening rifts in Europe as NGOs clash with Italian authorities over rules that effectively close off the country’s ports to their boats.

Italy’s coalition government, which includes the right-wing League, blames European partners for leaving it alone to deal with sea arrivals. New rules were adopted last month threatening NGO ships entering Italian waters without permission with a fine of up to 50,000 euros and the impounding of their vessels.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Saturday asked his Italian counterpart, League leader Matteo Salvini, to rethink the ports shutdown.

The sailboat Alex, carrying 41 migrants, docked at the same quay where a week ago another charity vessel collided with an Italian police boat when its captain decided to bring migrants ashore after two weeks in international waters.

The German captain of the Sea-Watch 3 boat, 31-year-old Carola Rackete, was arrested in Lampedusa last Saturday before a Sicilian judge ordered her release a few days later.

The German interior minister said he was working with the European Commission to find solutions for people aboard the Alex and the Alan Kurdi, a second NGO ship which is close to Italian waters and has also been denied permission to enter.

In a tweet late on Saturday the NGO Sea-eye said the Alan Kurdi had changed its course to Malta, saying it could not wait until the state of emergency prevailed.

“We cannot allow ships with rescued people on board to be left sailing the Mediterranean for weeks because they can’t find a harbor,” Seehofer wrote in a letter. “We need swift European solutions in a spirit of common responsibility and solidarity.”

But Salvini replied in a Facebook video that a policy change was out of the question.

“Dear German government, I’m not reopening the ports ... if anything we’re going to put ... (the migrants) in a car and take them to the German embassy,” he said.

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