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Rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 changes to German flag

December 5, 2019

The Sea-Watch organization accused the Netherlands of purposely trying to prevent the rescue of drowning refugees. The group expressed the hope that Germany would be a better supporter of its mission.

 Sea Watch 3
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot

The rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3, which has been detained by Italian authorities on multiple occasions, said on Thursday that it would no longer be registered in the Netherlands and would instead fly Germany's flag.

In a statement, Sea-Watch accused Dutch authorities of not fulfilling their role as a nation supporting their mission, adding that the Dutch "deliberately created a situation that would make further rescue missions impossible."

According to the NGO, a ship's flag country "is responsible for allowing ships to dock in a safe harbor as soon as possible after a rescue operation. However, whenever the Sea-Watch 3 appealed to its flag nation, the Netherlands repeatedly failed to fulfill its responsibilities."

The statement went further, saying that the Netherlands had intentionally tried to prevent the rescue of dying people.

Suzanne Kroger of the Dutch Green Left party expressed her disappointment to the organization, saying, "This is a loss for the Netherlands and is in conflict with the policy of the 'open arms'" that the Dutch government purports to exemplify.

Since its inception, Sea-Watch has rescued hundreds of drowning migrants between the coasts of northern Africa and Europe. Most notably it earned the ire of Italy's former interior minister, the far-right League party leader Matteo Salvini.

Under Salvini's instruction, refugees were sometimes left for many days on ships without adequate medicine, food, or water, until another EU country agreed to take them after disembarking in Italy. Sea-Watch ship captains Carola Rackete and Pia Klemp have both faced the threat of legal action in Italy.

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.