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Germany mulls requests to host Sea-Watch migrants

Lewis Sanders IV
June 18, 2019

Dozens of cities, including Berlin and Rottenburg, have offered to take in migrants rescued in the Mediterranean. But German authorities have said resettling 53 migrants rescued by Sea-Watch would require EU support.

Sea-Watch 3 rescue vessel
Image: picture-alliance/ROPI

The German Interior Ministry has confirmed that it received formal requests from more than 50 municipalities to host migrants rescued in the Mediterranean by German NGO Sea-Watch, DPA news agency reported on Tuesday.

Around 60 cities and towns across Germany on Friday offered to host 53 migrants who were rescued off the coast of Libya last week. They announced an alliance called "Safe Havens" to coordinate their efforts.

However, German authorities must first approve the requests before the migrants can be resettled in Germany. An Interior Ministry spokesman said that while a solution would not be ruled out, EU support was necessary.

Read more: Europe's migrant rescue boats face uncertain future

Migrants rescued by Sea-Watch 3 vessel
Sea-Watch said all the migrants "need protection" after departing to Europe from conflict-ridden LibyaImage: picture-alliance/ROPI/SeaWatch/N. Jaussi

Italy blocks rescue ship

Italian authorities have blocked the rescue vessel from entering territorial waters, saying attempts to do so would be met with strict fines.

On Wednesday, hard-line Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini threatened to use new measures that allow his ministry to ban ships from entering territorial waters if deemed a threat to public security and order.

"This is the umpteenth time Sea-Watch, which is a real pirate ship, has done something like this," said Salvini. If Sea-Watch breaks the ban, it could be fined up to €50,000 ($56,000).

However, on Saturday, Salvini approved 10 migrants leaving the ship, including children, pregnant women and two sick men.

Read more: Follow the money: What are the EU's migration policy priorities?

Deadly voyage

Human rights groups have criticized Salvini, who leads Italy's far-right League Party, for preventing rescue boats from docking at Italian ports, calling his approach a "repressive management of the migratory phenomenon."

Nearly half a million irregular migrants have crossed the central Mediterranean and made landfall in Italy since 2015, according to figures provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Since January, more than 340 migrants have died attempting the dangerous journey.

Read more: Southern EU leaders criticize migrant rescue ships

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