An election campaign poster reads: "Free public transportation for all instead of private jets for the few!" and shows Carola Rackete, co-lead candidate for the left-wing Die Linke (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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NGO ‘rescue-boat’ captain ‘will not focus on migration’ if elected as MEP


Carola Rackete, a top candidate for the German hard-left Die Linke party in June’s European Parliament elections, no longer wants to be associated with migration.

Rackete, number two on Die Linke’s election list for the EP, said in Italy on May 23 that she was an ecologist and did not plan to work on migration issues in the Parliament.

That is despite her rise to prominence as a ship’s captain with Sea-Watch, an organisation bringing migrants from Africa to Europe.

“That’s not my political expertise,” she told German news outlet Der Spiegel.

That is an apparent U-turn, given she is renowned for fighting the Italian Government on behalf of boat migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and bringing them to Europe.

Rackete, who described herself as “Antifa” on social media, used her ship in 2019 to break an Italian blockade at sea.

The incident resulted in a collision with an Italian law enforcement vessel. There were 53 migrants on board Rackete’s boat at the time.

She also made headlines by calling for the climate movement “Fridays for Future” to transition from “symbolic protest” to “direct action”.

Her activities were part of the reason why the right-wing Italian Government of Giorgia Meloni implemented stricter policies on “rescue ships”, as operators refer to them.

Such NGO vessels are now much more tightly restricted and are obliged to return to a harbour chosen by the Italian Government when they pick up migrants.

Italian Prime Minister Meloni has claimed such operations attract migrants and push people to make the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean.

This, in turn, “increases the risk of new sea tragedies”, she said.

As a result, Rackete is not popular in Rome, although she is hailed by open-border activists in Germany — one of the main reasons Die Linke chose her as a top candidate in the first place.

Now, she is campaigning on other issues. They include the case of Ilaria Salis, who is accused of violently attacking an attendee at a “Day of Honour” demonstration in Budapest.

That event is in honour of Nazi forces who escaped the Russian encirclement at the end of the Second World War, attracting many from the extreme right.

According to the Hungarian Conservative news outlet, Salis will remain under house arrest until her trial concludes, with another hearing scheduled for May 24 in Budapest. She was moved from prison on May 23 after spending some 15 months in custody.

Rackete is supporting Salis, whom she regards as a comrade in arms.

The German EP candidate said she wanted to “rectify” her own image in the media, which has portrayed her as a sea-borne migrant rescuer and climate activist. She stressed she was an ecologist by profession, having undertaken research in Antarctica and participating in projects on the effects of climate change.

Rackete added that she wanted to “socialise” energy networks, push for an EU-wide nuclear phase-out and a clear date for ending the use of fossil fuels.

Other themes she campaigns on are harmonised European taxes for top earners and a wealth tax, better transparency regarding EU legislation and lobbying for a clear linking of the climate movement, its political demands and trade unions.