Rescue ship with 42 migrants stuck off Italy's Lampedusa

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Updated: Seawatch captain arrested after ship docks at Lampedusa, migrants disembark

Italian police have arrested the captain of a rescue ship carrying dozens of migrants rescued near Libya, after a weeks-long standoff between the vessel and authorities came to a climax off the island of Lampedusa. Time and time again, boats that have rescued migrants have found themselves in limbo for days or weeks in the Mediterranean.

ANSA reported that an Italian government boat had "attempted several times" to stop the Sea-Watch 3 from landing, but then aborted the effort to avoid getting stuck between the dock and the German NGO vessel.

Despite growing pressure from inside Italy and Europe, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has refused to allow the migrants to set foot in Italy.

A delegation of Italian parliamentarians, meanwhile, boarded the ship Thursday afternoon, and said they would remain on board until the migrants were allowed to disembark. A prosecutor in southern Italy added that it was a formality once the Sea Watch had entered Italian waters. "#CarolaRackete and her crew, to bringing the 40 people to safety", the charity said on Twitter.

Rackete reportedly was exhausted of waiting for permission to dock after 17 days at sea and a multi-day standoff with Italian authorities.

The 42 people were eventually disembarked and Rackete was arrested by the police on charges of resistance and violence against warships.

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The 31-year-old German was filmed being led away by police in handcuffs.

He previously said the migrants could only disembark if they headed straight to the Netherlands, where the Sea-Watch 3 is registered, or to Germany.

After two weeks at sea, with no options left and 42 people exhausted and trapped on board in torrid conditions, Rackete made a decision to enter Italian waters, facing the consequences.

In a tweet on Friday, Rackete said she was ready to face the consequences of Italian law.

The overwhelming majority of the migrants' home countries don't have repatriation agreements with Italy, meaning even if their asylum bids are rebuffed, Italy can't expel them, despite Salvini's pledges.

Leaked tapes of her radio calls pointedly disregarding orders from Italian port officials have presumably been meant to shore up Italy's case against her for not only disobeying authorities but also for flouting a government decree passed this month denying entry to Italian territorial waters on public order grounds that could see Sea-Watch slapped with a fine of up to €50,000 (NZ$84,633). In just a few days, the initiative has reached more than €350,000.

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Rackete repeated that she brought the ship into Italian waters without permission out of necessity, citing both the psychological state of the rescued passengers and the worsening humanitarian conditions on board.

After announcing she would be investigated, "I have chose to enter the harbour, which is free at night, on my own", she said in a video statement on Twitter.

The vessel had rescued 53 migrants off the coast of Libya on 12 June.

"It looks like the motorboat managed to flee".

"But laws are laws whether you like them or not", he said. "And that would lead to penalties, though diminished ones".

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