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Sea-Watch says captain 'abandoned by Europe'

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Rome (AFP)

The captain of rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3, Carola Rackete, who has been arrested for bringing migrants to Italy, was "abandoned by all of Europe, the German charity said on Wednesday.

"Carola did her duty and was abandoned by all European countries and international organisations," Sea-Watch's Italian representative Giorgia Linardi told journalists in Rome.

"The captain, as is her duty, and having been helped by none of the authorities contacted, with shipwreck survivors on board, headed for the closest safe port," said Linardi.

An Italian judge on Tuesday released Rackete, three days after her arrest for docking with 40 migrants aboard her ship in defiance of an Italian ban.

The charity said that she had subsequently gone into hiding pending her next court appearance because of "numerous threats".

Italy's far-right League cancelled a parliamentary committee hearing on Sea-Watch scheduled for Wednesday.

Rackete, 31, was arrested after hitting a police speedboat while entering the port of the southern island of Lampedusa on Saturday in her vessel, which had been banned from docking by Italian authorities.

She has defended her actions, saying she was compelled to avert a human tragedy and bring the migrants ashore after more than two weeks at sea.

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has taken a hard line against migrants, reacted furiously to her release, vowing to stop further rescue vessels "one by one".

Salvini has labelled Rackete a "danger to national security", accusing her of trying to kill members of the Italian armed forces while docking.

The migrants were allowed to disembark at Lampedusa and taken to a reception centre, as they prepared to travel on to several other EU member states which have agreed to take them in.

Another charity involved in rescuing migrants making the perilous journey from Africa to Europe, Mediterranea, said on Wednesday that they would continue their work "as international law demands".

MSF Italia spokesman Marco Bertotto said that since Salvini tried to close Italian ports to rescue vessels last year, 2,500 migrants have been stuck at sea for a total of 165 days.

Salvini accuses the rescue vessels of aiding human traffickers, but Bertotto noted that despite the presence of fewer and fewer such boats, the migrants continued to flee Libya.

"Five out of six migrant boat departures happened when there was no (NGO) rescue vessel at sea," he said.

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