EU Rights Court Refuses to Order Italy to Accept Ship-Bound Refugees

The humanitarian vessel Sea-Watch 3. (

(CN) – For the second time in six months, the European Court of Human Rights declined a request Tuesday from the captain of a humanitarian ship to order Italy to allow refugees from Africa to disembark and enter the European Union.

About 40 people from Niger, Guinea, Cameroon, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Conakry have been aboard the humanitarian ship Sea-Watch 3 since June 12, when they were rescued in international waters off the coast of Libya. The ship made its way to Italian territorial waters, where the refugees lobbied the human rights court on June 21 to order Italy to let them come ashore.

Italian authorities have allowed 11 people to disembark on health grounds but have otherwise denied permission for the ship to dock.

After asking both Sea-Watch and the Italian government questions about the conditions aboard the ship, the health of the refugees and their possible vulnerability, and the measures envisaged by the government, the Strasbourg-based rights court declined to order Italy to let the ship dock or to allow the refugees to disembark.

Instead – and as it did this past January with another set of refugees aboard the Sea-Watch 3 – the human rights court told Italian authorities to “continue to provide all necessary assistance to those persons aboard the Sea-Watch 3 who are in a situation of vulnerability as a result of their age or state of health,” according to a statement issued by the court.

In the last year, Italy has rolled out tough new anti-immigration measures pushed into law by the far-right political party in the coalition government – measures many mayors of Italy’s biggest cities have protested as inhumane.

Sea-Watch has blasted the European Union for its inaction but praised the more than 60 cities and municipalities across Europe that have declared themselves safe havens for refugees.

“As the EU ducks away, civil society takes responsibility. The offer to take in people is there, the solution is on the table. It is up to the EU and the German government to allow this now, and Italy to safely leave these 43 people safely on land,” Sea-Watch 3 Capt. Carola Rackete said in a statement this month.

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