German migrant ship denied entry to Maltese waters

VALLETTA/MILAN (Reuters) – A German rescue ship heading to Malta after being refused entry into Italy has not been given clearance to enter Maltese waters, authorities said on Sunday.

Italy’s migration policy has led to clashes between NGOs and Italian authorities over rules that effectively close off the country’s ports to their boats.

The Alan Kurdi is the latest of several vessels carrying migrants that has faced problems trying to dock in an Italian port in the past couple of weeks.

The German-flagged vessel named after the three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi who drowned in the Mediterranean in 2015, decided on Saturday to change course for Malta after a standoff with Rome.

On Sunday, the Maltese armed forces said the government would guide it on the appropriate action to take should the ship enter Maltese waters.

The ship, which has 65 migrants on board, is expected to arrive near Malta on Sunday afternoon.

In a tweet on Saturday the German NGO running the Alan Kurdi said it had decided to change course for Malta because it could not wait for a state of emergency to develop on board.

“It remains to be seen whether European governments support Italy’s position. People are not bargaining chips,” the NGO said.

Italy’s coalition government, which includes the right-wing League, blames European partners for leaving it alone to deal with sea arrivals.

New rules were adopted last month threatening NGO ships entering Italian waters without permission with a fine of up to 50,000 euros and the impounding of their vessels.

On June 29, Italian police arrested the German captain of the Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch 3, operated by a German charity, after the vessel docked at the island port of Lampedusa though she was later released.

Reporting by Christopher Scicluna and Stephen Jewkes. Editing by Jane Merriman

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