German NGO Suing Italy For Blocking Migrant Ship

Sea Watch, a German non-governmental organization, lodged an urgent complaint against Italy with the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) on Monday after a ship it runs, the Sea Watch 3, was barred from docking several EU countries.

Sea Watch 3, which rescued 47 migrants north of the Libyan port of Zuwarah, has been unable to make land for over a week.

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The Berlin-based NGO has launched interim measures "in the name of the crew and one rescued individual," said spokesman Ruben Neugebauer.

"We can no longer accept that the European states are jointly breaking the law of the sea and we cannot accept that sea rescue is made conditional on EU negotiations," Neugebauer said in a statement sent to German news agency DPA.

Sea Watch 3, a vessel which carries a Dutch flag, entered Italian waters on Friday but has been unable to dock. Italy has blocked several rescue vessels, in part due to EU countries failing to agree on a migrant redistribution solution.

Migrants wait to disembark from the German NGO Sea Watch3 ship in the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo (GIOVANNI ISOLINO/AFP/Getty Images)

EU rules require the country in which migrants land to take responsibility for dealing with asylum claims. But Italy argues that the Netherlands should be legally responsible for the vessel because it is "flying the flag of that country."

On Monday, the Netherlands rejected a request by Italy to take the 47 migrants, with the Dutch Justice and Security Ministry saying it would "not take part in ad hoc measures for disembarkation."

The Dutch government also said it was not responsible for the boat, claiming the vessel acted "on its own initiative ... It was up to the captain of Sea Watch 3 to find a nearby port to disembark the 47 migrants he had on board."

More than 100,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea last year, according to the United Nations refugee agency, with more than 2,000 losing their lives or going missing.

The EU has yet to come up with a sustainable migrant solution since the migration crisis of 2015, with many countries throughout the bloc refusing to accept refugees.

You can read this story as it originally appears at Deutsche Welle here.

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(PHOTO: Alexander Stein/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

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