The Sea Watch 3 captain, who memorably defied Italy's landing ban, chastised EU lawmakers for the situation in the Mediterranean. She said rescuers were legally compelled not to return migrants to Libya as it is unsafe.
Sea Watch 3 Captain Carola Rackete has chastised the European Parliament for outsourcing the handling of migrants to war-ravaged Libya.
Rackete was the subject of international news coverage earlier this year when she was arrested for docking her rescue ship at the Italian island of Lampedusa with 40 migrants, despite the explicit prohibition of then-Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
"The EU member states have engaged in a policy of externalization of their responsibilities and a practice of pushbacks and omissions of rescue, delegating interventions to a country at war, Libya, in breach of international law," Rackete said Thursday to both applause and jeers.
She said she hoped the EU's new focus on search and rescue methods will result in "some real improvement and not just a mixed bag making it even more difficult for people like me and many, many organizations to carry out solidarity and to help people who are in danger."
Rackete told parliament that the issue of sea-faring migrants needed to be addressed by the whole EU bloc, not just Italy. She urged European countries to stop criminalizing migrant rescue operations by organizations such as hers.
Anniversary of tragedy
Rackete was speaking on the sixth anniversary of the drowning of 300 people off the island of Lampedusa.
It also came a few days ahead of a Luxembourg meeting, during which Germany's Horst Seehofer, together with the interior ministers of France, Italy and Malta want to convince other EU countries to join a voluntary transitional regulation that would stipulate rescued migrants be distributed among the bloc within four weeks of arriving.
Also on Thursday, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called for a comprehensive restoration of search and rescue capacities in the Mediterranean.
aw/msh (AP, dpa, AFP, KNA, epd)