Italy Detains Migrant Rescue NGO Ship for Encouraging Illegal Migration


The Italian government has detained a ship belonging to Proactiva Open Arms claiming that the migrant rescue NGO broke international agreements and laws by refusing to hand over migrants to Libyan authorities.

The ship belonging to the Spanish NGO was detained at the Italian port of Pozzallo in Sicily after claims that the pro-mass migration activists on board had refused to hand over illegal migrants to Libyan authorities and had outrun them, El Pais reports.

Prosecutors in Catania have claimed the Proactiva Open Arms has engaged in “illegal immigration and criminal association”, sources close to the NGO have said.

The prosecutor added that the NGO had “violated the law and international agreements by not handing over the migrants to Libyan authorities”.

Founder of Proactiva Open Arms, Oscar Camps, confirmed the detainment of the vessel saying that the group had refused to sign documentation presented to them by the Italian government before having it translated.

Mr. Camps said the ship had been detained for “criminal association and encouraging illegal immigration by disobeying Libyans by not handing over women and children”.

Activists and journalists on board the vessel claimed that Libyan authorities had threatened them during a rescue operation 73 miles off the Libyan coast, which they said is outside of Libyan government jurisdiction.

The case is not the first time a migrant rescue vessel has been detained by the Italian government. Last August, the Italians detained the ship Iuventa claiming that the NGO operating it, German-based Jugend Rettet, had been coordinating with people smugglers in Libya.

Less than a week later, the vessel Golfo Azzurro, which also belongs to Proactiva Open Arms, was refused access to the port of Lampedusa as Italian authorities alleged the NGO had violated the recently introduced code of conduct by straying into Libyan waters.

The NGO blamed “right-wing hackers” from the Identitarian movement-led Defend Europe mission which sought to monitor the activities of the various NGOs operating in the search and rescue (SAR) zone off the Libyan coast.

Following the conclusion of the Defend Europe mission, many NGOs quit rescue operations entirely. Twenty days after the organisations stopped their operations, there were zero deaths in the Mediterranean and the number of migrants heading to Italy plummeted.

 Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at) 


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