Posted on March 19, 2019 by Ilias Kiritsis
An Italian charity ship rescued 50 people from a sinking life raft off the coast of Libya on March the 18th.
The Mare Jonio located the raft some 42 miles off the coast of Libya.
The 49 distressed migrants onboard, 12 of which were minors, had been drifting in international waters for over two days with little chance of rescue
Thankfully, the spotter plane Moonbird, part of the Sea Watch NGO, located the dinghy and relayed the information to the Mare Jonio.
After rescuing the distressed migrants, the Mare Jonio informed the Italian Coast Guard (ICG) that it had performed the rescue, as per International Maritime Law and the Italian Navigation Code.
The Italian-flagged ship then headed to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, allegedly, the closest safe haven in the area where the rescue was performed.
However, just a mile off the port of Lampedusa, the Mare Jonio was approached by two Italian police boats who ordered the vessel to proceed no further.
A large number of officers then proceeded to board the vessel in order to carry out an inspection.
Should the government deny permission for the vessel to dock, it will mark the first such event between the Italian government and an Italian-flagged ship.
Italy has previously blocked non-Italian rescue boats from entering their ports, but this will be the first such incident involving an Italian ship.