Italy to seize two migrant ships for 'illegally flying Dutch flag'

Italy has announced it will sequester two boats belonging to the German NGO lifeline, accusing them of illegally flying the Dutch flag.

The law states that it is the responsibility of the countries of the flags being flown to ensure the ships operate under international law.

Minister of Transport, Danilo Toninelli, said the ships “will be sequestered by the Italian government and directed in our ports to check their flag of membership.”

“These ships belong to a German NGO and do not appear in the naval registers of the Netherlands.”

The boats, Lifeline and Seefuchs, operate in the Mediterranean, picking up migrants off the coast of Libya, before transporting them to Europe.

Toninelli claims the vessel acted in violation of international law by picking up migrants where Libyan coastguards were already helping.

Those on the Lifeline boat fear another crisis similar to the Aquarius, which saw a boat carrying 620 migrants turned away from Italy after Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Italy was no longer going to facilitate illegal immigration.

Lifeline say in a statement they rescued 226 migrants “in accordance with international law” and that they feared “a situation similar to that of Aquarius a week ago may loom on the horizon”.

Toninelli refuted their statement, saying all those on board would be disembarked before the ships were seized.

Last week, Salvini said: “Malta takes in nobody. France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons. From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration.”