The prosecutor’s office of Agrigento has confirmed the seizure of the migrant transport ship the Alex after it brought 41 migrants to Lampedusa, as the government prepares to enact even larger fines against NGOs.
The ship, which is operated by the Italy-based NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans, was impounded this week and investigations have been launched against the commander of the ship Tommaso Stella and the head of the mission Erasmo Palazzotto, Il Giornale reports.
The two men are accused of facilitating illegal migration as well as resisting and disobeying a vessel belonging to Italian authorities. The NGO could also receive a fine of up to 65,000 euros.
The investigations follow another investigation into the head of Mediterranea Saving Humans Luca Casarini, who was interrogated by prosecutor Salvatore Vella in April in connection with aiding illegal migration.
The seizure comes only a week after the NGO announced it would be putting the Alex to sea to aid two other migrant transport NGOs operating off the coast of Libya in the search and rescue (SAR) zone and comes after the NGO’s other vessel, the Mare Jonio, was confiscated in May.
The seizure also comes a week after Sea Watch-3 captain Carola Rackete forced her vessel into Italian waters in an attempt to dock, ramming a patrol boat as she did so. While Rackete was initially arrested, she was released just days later.
Along with looking to amend the security and migration decree to confiscate ships flying the Italian flag, Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini is also looking to dramatically increase the severity of fines for NGOs which enter Italian territorial waters with migrants on board.
The new proposed fines could reach anywhere between 150,000 to a million euros, up from the previous amounts of 10,000 to 50,000 euros.
The increased fines will require the backing of the Five Star Movement, Salvini’s coalition partners, but could face scrutiny.