Following international maritime law obligations, in June 2019, Sea-Watch 3 rescued 53 people from distress at sea. However, no European state – in particular Italy, the nearest place of safety – allowed those rescued to disembark. In fact, Sea-Watch 3's rescue mission occurred while the Italian Council of Ministers were deciding on a new security decree. This policy enabled the Italian Minister of the Interior to prohibit Sea-Watch 3's transit through or stopping in Italian waters.
After 15 days of deadlock and an increasingly dire humanitarian emergency on board, Sea-Watch 3 entered the Italian port of Lampedusa despite the ban. When the rescue ship docked, Italian police arrested Capitan Rackete, accusing her of aiding and abetting illegal immigration.
Both Rackete and the NGO Sea-Watch face fines of 10,000 to 50,000 euro; Sea-Watch 3 was seized for half a year. Following her arrest, Rackete became the target of an unprecedented smear campaign in the media by the Italian government. It was characterized by hate speech and sexist insults.