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German Rescue Ship Captain Questioned in Italy on Unauthorized Docking

German captain Carola Rackete attends a hearing over accusations she aided illegal immigration in Agrigento, Sicily, July 18, 2019.

The German rescue ship captain who allegedly disobeyed Italy's ban on migrant ships, voiced hope Thursday that EU countries would allow migrants in the future. Carola Rackete spoke after she was questioned by a Sicilian court on suspicion of aiding illegal immigration.

Shouts of “Brava,” along with applause, greeted Carola Rackete as she left court in the town of Agrigento after just under four hours of questioning. Demonstrators outside the courtroom held banners which read, “Saving lives at sea is not a crime.”

The 31-year-old Rackete told reporters she was pleased to have told the court why she entered the port of Lampedusa in late June after two weeks at sea in international waters. Rackete was arrested June 29 after defying orders to stay out of the port and hitting a police boat with her ship, the Sea-Watch 3, with migrants on board.

A judge in Agrigento subsequently released her from house arrest, saying the captain followed the "law of the sea," which is first and foremost to save the lives of endangered people.

The captain has said she docked at Lampedusa because she feared for the health of her migrant passengers.

Rackete told journalists she hoped the new European Union Commission would let migrants such as those she had rescued enter those countries without facing added impediments.


“I sincerely hope that the European Commission now after the new election of the parliament will do their very best to prevent situations like that happening and that all the European countries will work together in the future to accept any people which the civilian fleet has rescued," said Rackete.

The Italian government has adopted a tough position against illegal immigration. Authorities have imposed a policy that effectively stops non-governmental organization ships with rescued migrants from entering Italian waters.

In the case of Rackete, investigators say she will not undergo further questioning. Rackete's lawyers also say she is free to return to Germany if she so desires and that no arrest has been confirmed. Additionally, the lawyers say Rackete is no longer the captain of the Sea Watch as there has been a change in crew.