An administrative court in Rome ruled on Wednesday August 14th that Spanish rescue ship Open Arms, which was carrying around 150 migrants, should be allowed to enter Italian territorial waters. The ryuling defies a ban imposed by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and looks likely to increase the tension between the Italian courts and administration.
The Rome court said the Open Arms complaint “does not appear to be completely without legal basis”, adding that the charity vessel clearly faced an “exceptionally serious” situation.
It said that the boat should be allowed into Italian waters to receive immediate assistance for the “most needy rescued persons”. However, the court ruling did not say whether the boat should be allowed to dock or if the migrants should be permitted to disembark.
Salvini responded that he would not allow the ship entry, regardless of the ruling.
Open Arms had appealed to the court to let it come to Italy, claiming that international maritime law meant it had a right to bring the migrants to safety.
Open Arms’ founder Oscar Camps said in Madrid that the boat would now set sail for the Italian island of Lampedusa. Once in Italian waters, the NGO would request medical evacuation for all those on board.
Salvini had said on Tuesday that he would block both the Open Arms and French charity-operated Ocean Viking, from bringing the migrants on board to Italy.
Responding to the ruling, Salvini told supporters during a visit to Recco, in northern Italy, that he would continue to refuse the ship entry “because I will never be an accomplice to human traffickers”.
His ministry later issued a statement saying it would appeal against the ruling to the State Council, a higher administrative body, because the court did not have all the relevant facts when it made its ruling.