When res­cue turns into traf­fick­ing

The Week (US) - - 16 News - Carlo Bonini

La Repub­blica

A Ger­man char­ity has been ac­cused of go­ing too far in its at­tempt to help mi­grants, said Carlo Bonini. Thou­sands of des­per­ate mi­grants from Africa and the Mid­dle East drown in the Mediter­ranean each year af­ter en­trust­ing their lives to North African smug­glers who pack them into un­sea­wor­thy boats and point them to­ward Ital­ian is­lands. The Ital­ian navy has res­cued many of th­ese peo­ple, and it’s a fine thing when NGOs send their own boats to help. But Ju­gend Ret­tet, a Ger­man group, al­legedly went one step fur­ther. Ital­ian prose­cu­tors say the NGO didn’t pluck mi­grants from the sea. It “made an agree­ment with hu­man traf­fick­ers” to

load mi­grants onto its own ship, Iu­venta, on the Libyan coast and then trans­ported them to the Ital­ian isle of Lampe­dusa. Ju­gend Ret­tet had os­ten­ta­tiously re­fused to sign a code of con­duct for res­cue ships that would have re­quired it to co­op­er­ate with Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties, say­ing that its “prin­ci­ple of neu­tral­ity” would not let it “take part in a con­flict.” Yet it al­legedly co­op­er­ated with crim­i­nal smug­gling gangs, peo­ple who “toss mi­grants over­board as fish food when­ever they need to shed bal­last.” Such ef­forts aren’t prin­ci­pled. By ap­pear­ing to fa­cil­i­tate il­le­gal mi­gra­tion, they are “a gift to the worst xeno­pho­bic in­stincts of Euro­pean pop­ulists.”

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