Mediterranea: Saving Humans refutes Italian prosecutor’s charge of ‘facilitating illegal immigration’
US AUTHOR Naomi Klein and philosopher Cornel West joined European human rights activists and academics today in their call today to help raise funds for a refugee rescue charity under legal attack in Italy.
The public prosecutor’s office in the Sicilian region of Ragusa brought charges against Mediterranea: Saving Humans earlier this month, accusing the NGO of “facilitating illegal immigration.”
The charges relate to an incident involving Mediterranea’s rescue ship Mare Jonio and a commercial vessel in the Mediterranean Sea last summer.
The Etienne, a container ship operated by Danish firm Maersk, rescued the 27 people in August within Malta’s search-and-rescue zone. However, the island nation refused to allow the ship to enter its waters, keeping the refugees and the crew in a state of limbo in international waters for five weeks.
During the stand-off, the Etienne’s captain warned several times that his ship and crew were not equipped to deal with the physical and mental wellbeing of the rescued, some of whom were mistreated in Libya’s migrant detention camps.
On September 11, 2020 as the Mare Jonio was heading towards the central Mediterranean, the crew received an urgent request for assistance from the Etienne.
The Mare Jonio transferred the 27 refugees onto its ship and brought them to Pozzallo, Sicily.
Ragusa’s prosecutor claims the transfer only happened after “an agreement of a commercial nature between the companies that owned the two ships” and for which Mediterranea “earned a significant sum.”
Both Mediterranea and Maersk refute this.
“It was a humanitarian situation and we want to clarify that at no time before or during the operation was any financial compensation or support discussed or agreed,” Maersk said in a statement on March 2.
The Danish shipping giant said that it did donate €125,000 (£107,234) to Mediterranea months after the rescue to help cover some of the costs they endured.
The activists’ statement, published on Critical Legal Thinking today, warned that the criminalisation of Mediterranea is emblematic of Europe’s mistreatment of refugees.
“Especially given the fact that the Mediterranean Sea continues to be the most lethal border in the world, we want to show unconditional solidarity with Mediterranea as well as with the other NGOs under attack,” it reads.
“We are particularly concerned for Mediterranea, which is currently blocked from undertaking rescue operations at sea. And we know how expensive are the lawyers’ fees and other legal expenses necessary to defend against legal attacks such as the one launched by the Public Prosecutor of Ragusa.
“For all these reasons we launch an international fundraising campaign in support of Mediterranea. And we strongly invite all citizens and organisations convinced that rescue should be prioritized over everything else to contribute to the fundraising.”
To donate to Mediterranea: Saving Human’s, visit bit.ly/3eQjrJU.
For the full state and list of signatories, visit bit.ly/2NvoC6G.