The Italian government has released photographic evidence which they claim shows the German migrant rescue NGO Jugend Rettet cooperating with people smugglers off the Libyan coast.
Jugend Rettet, an NGO which operates rescue missions in the search and rescue (SAR) zone off the Libyan coast, has been accused of cooperating with people smugglers by Italian prosecutors. The authorities have now released photographs which they claim show the Jugend Rettet vessel the “Iuventa” very close to a smuggler boat, Die Welt reports.
Just over a week ago, Italian authorities confiscated the Iuventa from the NGO and has since announced that at least 15 activists associated with the group are actively under investigation for cooperating with human traffickers.
Prosecutor Ambrogio Cartosio said: “The evidence is serious. We have evidence of encounters between smugglers who have accompanied illegal immigrants to the ‘Iuventa’, and members of the crew.”
Cartosio added that whilst in some cases the ship rescued migrants in need, many times they were just picking up migrants delivered to them. The migrants, Cartosio said, “are being escorted by the smugglers and surrendered to the ‘Iuventa’ near the Libyan coast”.
Jugend Rettet has defended themselves against the claims saying they were targeted by “right-wing hackers” who changed the location of their ships to make it look like they were operating in Libyan waters.
Proactiva Open Arms, a Spain-based migrant rescue NGO, has also been in trouble this week with Italian authorities who accused them of operating in Libyan territorial waters and breaking rules of the new NGO code of conduct approved by the Italian government which several NGOs, including Jugend Rettet and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), refused to sign.
The Spanish NGO’s ship the “Golfo Azzurro” was refused access to Italian ports and the crew had to be picked up by a different vessel off the coast of Malta in order to disembark.
So far this year, over 100,000 migrants have arrived in Italy from North Africa, many having been “rescued” by pro-migrant NGOs. The European border agency Frontex has claimed the NGOs act as a “pull factor” encouraging more migrants to attempt the often perilous voyage.
Pro-migrant groups have argued the NGOs are rescuing individuals fleeing persecution and conflict although the United Nations has admitted the vast majority of migrants are coming to Europe for economic reasons.
Groups have also argued that women and children are on the rescued boats as well although reports have shown that many of these migrants have been forced into sexual slavery once they reach Europe.