Italy has impounded the Spanish charity rescue ship Open Arms for violating rules by Italy’s right-wing government banning multiple rescues at sea, the charity said Thursday.
The boat is blocked from leaving the port of Carrera in Tuscany for 20 days and the charity has been levied a fine of between 3,000 and 10,000 euros ($3,200-$10,500), the charity Open Arms said.
Open Arms called the sanctions a violation of the law of the sea that requires boats to rescue people in distress. It said it was being punished for rescuing 176 people in three operations, including people of “extreme vulnerability.”
Italy assigned a port after the first two rescues of 69 people in international waters Saturday. Open Arms said it then received a mayday call from the Seabird aerial surveillance charity that another migrant boat was in danger, overcrowded with 109 people.
After ascertaining its ship was the only rescue boat in the area, Open Arms said, it informed authorities that the craft would head to the overcrowded vessel, which was about 20 nautical miles, or two hours sailing, away.
The charity said its captain was questioned for six hours and the boat was impounded after arriving in Carrera, the port it had been assigned.
The government made no statements about the action. Premier Giorgia Meloni is in Granada, Spain, for a summit where she is pushing her European Union partners to come up with policies to block illegal migration across the Mediterranean Sea from northern Africa.
It is the second time that the Open Arms ship has been temporarily impounded. It and two other charity rescue boats were impounded over three days in August.
Meloni has vowed to take “extraordinary measures” to deal with an influx of migrants. According to Interior Ministry statistics at mid-September, nearly 126,000 people had arrived in Italy so far by boat this year, compared to 66,000 in the same period of 2022.