ROME (AP) — Italy has decided to ask the European human rights court to rule that the Netherlands must deal with a Dutch-flagged migrant rescue boat stranded off Sicily.
The Italian premier's office said Monday night that on Tuesday it will ask the France-based court to decide that the Dutch have jurisdiction. Italy won't let the Sea-Watch 3 disembark the 47 migrants because the populist government's anti-migrant policy forbids humanitarian boats which rescue migrants in the waters off Libya to enter Italian ports and disembark those they save from foundering smugglers' boats.
A statement from the premier's office said the captain of Sea-Watch 3, which rescued the migrants on Jan. 19, along with the head of the humanitarian mission of the German NGO have brought the boat's plight to the attention of the court in Strasbourg.
It wasn't immediately clear if the court has agreed to hear any case about Sea-Watch 3.
The government on Tuesday "will affirm that it's not Italy that must respond in this case in the light of national and international law."
The statement said the boat boldly put at risk the lives of the migrants aboard when, in agitated waters, it didn't seek shelter about 40 nautical miles (46 statute miles) away on the Tunisian coast last week, but instead sailed farther toward Italy.
Italy, should the Netherlands' jurisdiction be recognized by the court, would offer to set up a kind of "humanitarian corridor" to transfer the migrants to that country.
Italian news reports have said Dutch authorities contend it doesn't intend to take the migrants.
Sea-Watch 3's plight is the latest in several cases of migrants stuck for days aboard rescue vessels since Premier Giuseppe Conte's government began in June with a pledge to drastically reduce the numbers of rescued migrants reaching Italian shores. About 600,000 migrants, many of whom were denied asylum by Italy, have reached Italy on rescue boats in recent years.
In a separate crackdown on migrants, police in Sicily earlier Monday broke up a suspected Nigerian drug ring based in a migrant housing complex in Mineo.
Catania police said Monday that the ring dealt in cocaine, marijuana and other drugs, and acted like an organized criminal clan.