Rome, July 2: Is 31-year-old German ship captain Carola Rackete a "hero" or a "pirate"? Much of Europe remains divided on her, with a section of the state hailing her efforts for rescuing 53 African migrants from a remote island, whereas, others decrying her move, calling it an abatement to smuggling and human trafficking.
Rackete had, nearly two weeks ago, rescued 53 migrants of Africa from an island close to Libya. Considering the fragile health of those rescued, she was looking for the nearest port to drop them. As she headed her Sea Watch-3 vessel towards Italy's Lampedusa, the authorities imposed a blockade. Bangladeshi-Run Migrant Smuggling Ring Busted in Spain, 11 People Held in Barcelona For Trafficking Indians
After being stranded for two weeks in the sea, Rackete gate-crashed into the port on Saturday, striking a military vessel in the process. Although she has called it an accident, the authorities in Italy have charged her of attacking a naval ship.
She has been taken into arrest and also booked for smuggling, as the rigorous anti-immigration laws in Italy bars private vessels from rescuing migrants.
The hearing against Rackete is began at a court in Sicily on Monday. If convicted, she could face a maximum imprisonment of 10 years.
The German government has come out in support of the 31-year-old, demanding the Italian government to not to treat a humanitarian worker as a criminal.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas have appealed Rome to release Rackete at the earliest, while also distributing the African migrants among migrant-friendly nations of Europe.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has, however, advocated strict action against Rackete. The populist leader has argued that she has challenged their country's military by ramming into a naval vessel, and has also incentivised those attempting to illegally infiltrate into Italy.
Rackete, after landing in Lampedusa port, had vented her angst against "all institutions of Europe", saying that none of them were concerned for the lives of the immigrants who were rescued by her in a fragile condition.
On being asked why she did not take the migrants back to Libya as directed by Italy, the German captain said the nearest port of Tripoli does not qualify as a safe port in accordance to the laws of the sea.