Monday

25th Jun 2018

Italy seizes NGO boat and starts Libyan mission

Italy's coastguard has seized a migrant rescue boat in the Mediterranean Sea, which is suspected of aiding illegal immigration from Libya, and sent patrol boats to Libya's waters on Wednesday (2 August) in an effort to curb the influx of migrants.

The boat Iuventa, operated by Jugend Rettet, a German aid group that did not sign up to Italy’s new code of conduct designed for NGOs, was escorted to the Italian island of Lampedusa by coastguard vessels.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

"We received no information about investigation against us from official sites. Our crew was guaranteed that this is a standard process,” Jugend Rettet tweeted a few hours after the ship was impounded.

In a subsequent Facebook post, the group said it is very sorry that it cannot operate in the search and rescue zone, where migrants have been attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa into Europe.

Italy’s Ansa news agency reported that the move was ordered by a judge from the western Sicilian town of Trapani, as a "preventative seizure", and is related to a probe into "alleged aiding" of illegal immigration.

Ambrogio Cartosio, chief prosecutor in Trapani, was quoted by Reuters to have said that his investigation into Jugend Rettet was ongoing and no one has been charged yet.

"The evidence is serious," he said, adding: "We have evidence of encounters between traffickers, who escorted illegal immigrants to the Iuventa, and members of the boat's crew.”

However, Cartosio said there was no indication that Jugend Rettet had received money from Libya-based traffickers.

"It would be fantasy to say there was a coordinated plan between the NGOs and the Libyan traffickers," he said.

Earlier this week, Italy asked some nine NGOs, active in rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea, to sign a code of conduct that was backed by the European Commission.

Five, including the German NGO, refused, saying they are following international and maritime laws, and the new rules could lead to more deaths at sea.

On its website, Jugend Rettet says that it saved thousands of lives in 2016. The group was founded in 2015 in response to the refugee crisis.

One of the new requirements for NGOs is to have an armed police officer on board.

Libyan patrol

In an effort to curb trafficking, Italy's parliament on Wednesday authorised a limited naval mission to help Libya's coastguard curb migrant flows.

Rome sent two ships for logistics and patrols into Libyan waters, in order to to help the Libyan coastguard in patrolling the sea.

Italy initially hoped to send six ships, but had to downsize the mission following objections from the UN-backed administration in Tripoli.

Italy hopes that sending migrants back to Libya will have a significant deterrent effect, as over 600,000 people have crossed the sea since 2014.

The move was criticised by rights groups, who argue that Italy is sending migrants back to inhumane conditions and possible torture.

"After years of saving lives at sea, Italy is preparing to help Libyan forces who are known to detain people in conditions that expose them to a real risk of torture, sexual violence, and forced labour," Human Rights Watch's Judith Sunderland said.

Last week, EU ministers extended the mandate of the EU's Sophia naval mission - aimed at combating trafficking in the central Mediterranean - and debated whether to allow the mission to work inside Libyan territorial waters.

EU backs Italy on NGO rescues

The European Commission has said that the EU and Italy merely want to “better organise” migrant rescues in the Central Mediterranean.

Italy's 'nuclear option' on migrants unravels

Media has reported that Italy may issue visas to migrants to allow them to travel further north. But the plan is unlikely to work due to EU rules underpinning such decisions.

Italy to impose tough rules on NGOs

Italian authorities will release a code of conduct for NGOs, which prevents them, among other things, from entering Libyan territorial waters. A draft copy of the code says NGOs will be banned from Italian ports on failure to comply.

Opinion

Italy's action against NGOs is wrong

With the code of conduct Italian authorities are trying to impose on NGOs that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean, people would be forced to endure additional days at sea while states tussle over which port to send them too.

Opinion

Fate of EU refugee deal hangs in the balance

Europe's choice is between unplanned, reactive, fragmented, ineffective migration policy and planned, regulated, documented movements of people, writes International Rescue Committee chief David Miliband.

Opinion

EU summit: migrants get a 'vote' too

Non-citizens from Nigeria to Afghanistan get a binding 'vote' on whatever the EU's internal debates submit to them. They will vote with their feet on whether to keep trying their luck when faced with a new system.

News in Brief

  1. Nine countries to sign up for Macron's military initiative
  2. Re-elected Erdogan potentially in power until 2028
  3. Macron's popularity drops among French pensioners
  4. Tajani calls for €6bn investment to halt migration
  5. Major demo in London for second EU referendum
  6. Venice Commission: Hungary should repeal NGO law
  7. Trump threatens to slap 20 percent tariff on EU cars
  8. EU closes deficit procedure against France

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  2. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  4. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  5. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  7. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  11. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  12. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform

Latest News

  1. Progressive CAP alternative only hope for sustainability
  2. Ponytailed green MEP joins 'the other side of the table'
  3. EU leaders still in search of migration plan
  4. Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week
  5. Merkel's woes cast shadow on EU's future
  6. Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China
  7. Merkel and Juncker's mini-summit risks fiasco
  8. Greece and creditors proclaim 'end of crisis'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  3. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  5. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  8. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  10. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  11. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us