The founder of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, Oscar Camps, says one of its rescue ships has been sequestered by authorities in Italy.

The ship had rescued 218 migrants fleeing Libya, including women and small children.  It spent many hours at sea before receiving authorisation from the Italian authorities to dock.  The operation is now under investigation on charges of illegally aiding immigration.

European Green Party co-chair Monica Frassoni responded:

“Treating people that attempt to save the lives of migrants as criminals seriously undermines the legitimacy of the EU as a defender of human rights.  These are people in distress and need to be treated as such, not as statistics. The prime aim of the Spanish NGO was to save the lives of individuals fleeing danger in Libya. It is the second time that judge Carmelo Zuccaro has initiated legal proceedings for the criminalisation of NGO rescue operations.

You cannot equate the NGO code of conduct with well-established international norms to combat migrant smuggling as put forward by EU Commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud.  The Proactiva Open Arms NGO came under fire from Libyan coast guards when they were rescuing the migrants 74 kilometres from the Libyan coastline in international waters.  As such, they must be protected by international norms.

As the EU seeks to rehabilitate its image in the eyes of its citizens, actions such as these will only damage its reputation and embolden those who seek to destroy it.”