Sea-Watch 3: a new symbol for the migration crisis

Carola Rackete, captain of the rescue ship Sea-Watch 3, has been released. She was arrested after docking a ship carrying 40 migrants in Lampedusa despite a ban. Politicians and prominent public figures harshly criticised Rome for her arrest. Observers say the episode highlights Europe's division and failures in migration policy.

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La Stampa (IT) /

Italy isolating itself

The outcome of the affair demonstrates two things as far as La Stampa is concerned:

“Firstly, that in Italy the separation of powers works and there is no democratic crisis. Secondly, the interior minister, who is crossing all the red lines with his campaign against humanitarian aid organisations (there are no statistics that testify to an immigration crisis at present), is creating a kind of cordon sanitaire, a barrier, around Italy. We are becoming an unlikeable, arrogant country that from the outside looks more like Hungary than Western Europe. Moreover, with this approach we are masking the many failures of other European countries that are certainly in no position to lecture others when it comes to taking in illegal migrants.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Europe divided into two camps

Dagens Nyheter sees the Rackete affair as symbolic of the deep division in Europe:

“Salvini is being backed by his coalition friends from Five Star and the moderate Prime Minister Conte. The German reaction, in turn, has spread to France, and the Vatican also supported the captain. The reaction of the people is reflected in the donations gathered to cover the captain's legal expenses. ... The offer of Germany, Finland, France, Luxembourg and Portugal to take in the 40 migrants also plays a role in the issue. The captain is to be punished under Italian law; for [Italy's government] she is a criminal. Salvini can count on the nationalist-populist leaders in Eastern Europe supporting this view.”

Novi list (HR) /

What about morals and compassion?

Novi list can only shake its head in dismay over Europe's refugee policy:

“Europe has collapsed before our eyes. Yet again it is behaving in a nationalistic and selfish manner, unable and unwilling to develop a strategy to deal with the refugee and migrant crisis that goes beyond simple repression. ... From now on the names [of the two captains] Pia Klemp and Carola Rackete will stand for Europe's false policy of closing its doors to the unfortunate from all over the world, for a policy that won't save Europe but could destroy it. ... It cannot be that a continent inhabited by half a billion people - the most highly developed, most fortunate and often most humane part of this world - can't deal with this problem even though it is about compassion and morals.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Civil courage doesn't protect against punishment

Die Welt can't understand all the fuss over the arrest of Carola Rackete:

“When a German captain, no matter what gender, disrespects a ban on entering a harbour and harasses an Italian customs boat, this is clearly resistance against the Italian state and a punishable offence. If he or she brings foreigners into a port without authorisation, they are clearly aiding and abetting illegal immigration. ... Saving lives doesn't justify an advance general amnesty for the ensuing crimes. You can argue that according to the standards of compassion this is all morally justified, but civil courage doesn't protect against punishment if it constitutes a violation of the law.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Salvini is just saying what everyone thinks

Italy's refugee policy is scandalous but the EU's isn't much better, Tages-Anzeiger surmises:

“Amidst all the anger over Salvini's hypocrisy and cold-heartedness one thing shouldn't be forgotten: Italy's interior minister is simply the bullying champion of a migration policy behind which the entire European Union stands - less vulgar perhaps, but all the more hypocritical. The principle of the policy is: allow as few migrants from Africa and the Middle East as possible to come to Europe. And if this means sacrificing the much evoked European values, then so be it. ... To this day the EU still hasn't managed to find a supportive distribution system for migrants. It seems just as incapable of reforming the Dublin Regulation, which already showed itself to be completely ineffectual during the Balkan route crisis.”

Dimokratia (GR) /

The Sea-Watch captain's true motives

The conservative daily Dimokratia resorts to conspiracy theories:

“Rackete and those who give her orders have reinterpreted the meaning of 'humanism'. They are intent on replacing Italians with the Africans they transport on their ships. (It is not clear who is financing the transport, maintenance and operation of these ships). This woman and others like her have decided that they have the right to trample on laws, ram other ships and violate all kinds of rules - all because they are convinced that they are humanists.”

Kurier (AT) /

Compassion has become a crime

Carola Rackete acted in the name of humanity and international law, the daily paper Kurier explains:

“The German is now under house arrest for having brought the people to Italy. The arrest was legal. But the young woman did the right thing. ... She saved people from death. It is an imperative of humanity, and a duty as regards international law: The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that any captain who becomes aware of an emergency at sea is obliged to help. ... Why are we treating people who rescue other people from the sea like criminals? When did compassion become a crime? What kind of world are we living in?”

Mérce (HU) /

Thousands on their conscience

The events highlight the whole tragedy of European migration policy, philosopher Miklós Tamás writes in Mérce:

“Eighteen thousand refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean to date because of the omissions of national governments and the EU. Strictly speaking every single member state should be excluded from the EU for violating European law and from the Council of Europe and the UN for violating international law. ... Let's not forget what the most illustrious representatives of the most highly developed civilisation do. All of them. They kill defenceless people! ... When you finally reach for paving stones to break these murderers' windows don't forget Carola Rackete. She was arrested because she has a kind heart.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Germany should keep its mouth shut

Columnist Aldo Cazzullo rejects the idea of the Germans lecturing the Italians on this matter:

“Germany doesn't tolerate any laxity when it comes to its own laws. And although Germany is more open than it has ever been to refugees, Angela Merkel's policy of taking in refugees lasted only a few days. Afterwards the strategy changed and Erdoğan was paid to keep the Syrians in Turkey, while migrants [entering the country from Italy] are now sent back to their first country of arrival, preferably sedated and tied up. However, on the eve of complicated negotiations with Europe the last thing our country needs is a diplomatic incident, the arrest of a young woman accompanied by propaganda - unfortunately quite typical for our government - that would make you think the mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro or some other dangerous criminal had been apprehended.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Ship's captain holds up a mirror to Europe

Le Monde defends Captain Carola Rackete's decision to set course for Lampedusa:

“In taking this decision after an unsuccessful appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, the captain of Sea-Watch 3 has confronted all of Europe with its years of dithering and backtracking. In refusing to obey an order that only had the appearance of legality - namely to take the castaways rescued by Sea-Watch 3 back to the Libyan coast - she reminded everyone of the existence of international agreements and basic truths: everyone is obliged to rescue those stranded at sea. Such rescue operations are anything but suspect activities that turn volunteer NGO workers into willing or unwilling helpers of human traffickers.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Antigone versus Rambo

For Der Tagesspiegel the conflict has the dimensions of a Greek tragedy:

“Man against woman, the vulgar Rambo in Rome against the female commander who, like the ancient Greek heroine, assumes responsibility and the personal losses this entails in the name of a higher justice that represents humanity against a powerful entity that commits injustices. ... This could be the image that one day people will say marked the beginning of the end of the current strategy in defence of fortress Europe. ... As so often in history, the powerful entity succumbed to the delusion that it possessed all the means of coercion. And it failed to take into account that there is also the possibility to escape the coercion through civil disobedience. The captain of the Sea Watch is in the process of putting this to the test.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Salvini's diversionary manoeuvre

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is casting the Sea Watch as a kind of Loch Ness monster of the Mediterranean in order to divert attention from the country's true problems, columnist Ezio Mauro rails in La Repubblica:

“Perhaps the monster has appeared a little too early to fill the silly season with propaganda of a political rather than ideological nature. But the timing is still convenient for diverting the public's attention from the internal divisions in the government, from taxes that have reached record levels, from a Europe that is discussing Italy's debts. ... So it's full steam ahead: blow the Sea Watch affair up out of all proportion while the political reality would force the government to remain silent and on the defensive in view of the gaping void of its indecision.”