Italy Seizes Boat in Aim to End Migrant Crisis in Europe

05 August, 2017, 00:38 | Author: Laura Christensen
  • Confiscated NGO ship Iuventa heading to Trapani

An Italian patrol boat entered Libyan waters and headed towards the port of Tripoli within minutes of a vote in Italy's parliament authorizing the deployment.

Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, which was taking part in the rescues, said the corpses were recovered by the Santa Lucia merchant ship.

"There is no indication [the crew] was paid, " by smugglers, "nor is there any element to make us think there is a stable tie between the ship and Libyan traffickers", Cartosio said.

Italy said that the mission is based on a request by the UN-backed government in Tripoli.

The number of arrivals in July was down dramatically on the same month a year ago, suggesting efforts to close down the Libya-Italy route to Europe by training and equipping the North African country's coastguard could be having an impact.

Italy, which is facing elections next year, has told its European neighbors it is struggling to deal with the influx of people seeking refuge, but efforts to spread asylum seekers across the EU or stop people embarking on the risky Mediterranean crossing have so far largely failed.

Libya's eastern-based government said Italy wanted to "export the illegal immigration crisis from its territory to Libya's"، adding that the return of tens of thousands of migrants would have a "dangerous impact" on Libya's security، economy and society.

Arrivals in July though were down dramatically on the same month a year ago - 11،193 compared with 23،552، according to the Interior Ministry.

Some 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by sea from North Africa since 2014, making immigration a potent political issue and putting the country under increasing pressure to manage the new arrivals.

The approach has been criticised by worldwide rights groups who say people returned to troubled Libya face detention in squalid camps and abuse at the hands of traffickers.

Help organizations immediately criticized the move, saying it puts people at risk if they end up in the hands of Libyan forces. They estimate that 2,221 people have drowned this year alone on the central Mediterranean route.

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

Cartosio said he thought those involved had been driven purely by "humanitarian motives".

It is the first time Italian police have seized a humanitarian boat.

The government has introduced a code of conduct for the NGOs and has demanded that armed police travel on their boats to help root out eventual people smugglers.

The seized ship, the Iuventa, is operated by German aid group Jugend Rettet, which is among six out of the nine aid groups operating search-and-rescue activities off Libyan waters to have refused to sign up to the code-of-conduct.

Smugglers, exploiting the chaos in Libya caused by the 2011 uprising, pack desperate refugees and asylum seekers onto ill-equipped boats, which are usually intercepted by European vessels once they enter worldwide waters.



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