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German NGO may be first victim of Italy’s fines against rescue ships

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“The charity’s Sea-Watch 3 vessel is currently positioned 28 kilometres off Lampedusa and waiting,’’ Sea-Watch spokesman Ruben Neugebauer said on Friday.

The ship is in international waters, and Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has instructed police, the navy and the coast guard to keep it out of Italian territorial waters.

If Sea-Watch were to breach such orders, it would be liable to be fined 10,000-50,000 Euros (11,200-55,800 dollars), as stipulated by a decree the Italian government adopted on Tuesday.

“The ports are closed for them!’’ Salvini tweeted, accusing Sea-Watch of playing political games with migrants, instead of taking them to the nearest port.

The migrants were picked up on Wednesday, 47 nautical miles off Libya.

Salvini said they should have been taken back to Libya or handed over to the Libyan coast guard.

Sea-Watch refuses to do this because of the well-documented risk of torture and abuse of migrants in Libya.

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has urged Italy to “reconsider’’ the decree that may target Sea-Watch.

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