Captain of rescue ship defies Salvini in stand-off
The young German captain of a migrant-rescue ship stranded off Italy dismissed threats of arrest and personal criticism from the country's far-right interior minister yesterday, saying her main priority was the safety of 40 rescued Africans.
After two weeks at sea, the dreadlocked 31-year-old Carola Rakete has become a symbol of defiance for challenging the authority of minister Matteo Salvini, who is known as 'Il Capitano' at home for closing ports to non-government rescue ships.
Speaking to reporters from her ship, the Sea Watch, via a Skype connection, Ms Rakete said she was forced to enter Italian waters due to the worsening condition of the migrants plucked by her crew from international seas off Libya on June 12.
"The need which we have on board is psychological... The necessity to go into port is to prevent any harm or any self-harm which people might be contemplating," she said.
Ms Rakete, a conservationist who has served on a Greenpeace vessel in the past, has drawn strong support from Italy's pro-immigration opposition partie.
She says she now devotes her time to rescuing migrants as a reaction to her privileged upbringing.
In a stream of tweets, Mr Salvini has called her a pirate and outlaw. "The lady has said 'I have to volunteer because I was born white, rich and German'. But not everybody who is white, rich and German have to come and break Italy's balls. Help the kids in Germany!"