Facing prison for saving lives - sea-rescue NGOs on trial in Italy

Crew members from the “Iuventa” search and rescue ship, and people working for organisations Save the Children and Médecins sans Frontières, are among 21 people up in court this Saturday in Sicily, accused of “aiding and abetting unauthorised entry into Italy”.

Facing up to 20-years in prison and a fine of €15,000 per person that was rescued, the activists have contributed to rescuing thousands of people from drowning in the Mediterranean. Left MEPs are joining calls from all over Europe for solidarity with the accused and for all charges against the human rights defenders to be dropped.

“The crew of the Iuventa saved many lives. Civil Search and Rescue organisations step in where the European Union shamefully fails to act”, says MEP Cornelia Ernst (Die Linke, Germany). “Then, they are criminalised for fulfilling their duty to rescue at sea. The criminalization of many people on the move and the ones supporting them is spreading and intensifying all over Europe. Solidarity is not a crime, neither is fleeing your country. All charges need to be dropped immediately.” 

Since August 2017 the Iuventa ship has been impounded in the port of Trapani, Sicily while the criminal investigation continues. 

“Criminalising search and rescue organisations and also migrants is outrageous. This is an appalling week for any person concerned with basic and human rights” Miguel Urban (Anticapitalistas, Spain). We have had the Samos trial, with two migrants who survived a boat trip being accused of smuggling. And now we have the Trapani trial where the Iuventa crew will be also judged! We demand the immediate decriminalisation and withdrawal of charges for migrants and NGOs supporting them.”

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