Crispian Balmer and Catherine MacDonald, Reuters, August 14, 2019
An administrative court in Rome ruled on Wednesday that a Spanish rescue ship carrying around 150 migrants should be allowed to enter Italian territorial waters in defiance of a ban imposed by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, quickly responded that he would not allow the ship entry regardless of the ruling, setting up another high-profile conflict over the issue of immigration which has proved his biggest vote-winner.
The charity vessel Open Arms had appealed to the court to let it come to Italy, saying international maritime law meant it had a right to bring the migrants to safety.
Open Arms’ founder Oscar Camps, speaking to reporters in Madrid, said the boat would now set sail for the Italian island of Lampedusa. Once in Italian waters, the NGO will request medical evacuation for all those on board, Camps added.
Salvini said on Tuesday he would block both the Open Arms and another vessel operated by French charities, the Ocean Viking, from bringing to Italy more than 500 migrants they had picked up off Libya since last week.
Responding to the ruling, Salvini told supporters during a visit to Recco, in northern Italy, that he would continue to refuse the ship entry “because I will never be an accomplice to human traffickers”.
The interior ministry later issued a statement saying it would appeal against the ruling to the State Council, a higher administrative body, because the court did not have all the relevant facts when it made its ruling.