A Spanish Aid Worker, Held in Italy for Not Returning Refugees to Tripoli

“They threaten to shoot to kill our ship”, warned Anabel Montes in social networks before the threat of a Libyan coastguard.

It already happened to the aid workers who were trying to save the refugees from the Syrian war who were trying to win the island of Lesbos. Now, it is Italy that threatens serious penalties. The Spanish Anabel Montes Mier, head of operations of the Catalan NGO Proactiva Open Arms, is held in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo, along with Mark Reig, commander of the ship of the entity -sequenced judicially in a preventive manner-, for disembarking on Sunday 216 immigrants rescued near the Libyan coast. The prosecutor of Catania, Carmelo Zuccaro, has opened an investigation for criminal organization, promotion of illegal immigration and violate international agreements.

The retention of the ship and the crew has motivated a wave of solidarity, to which has been added, for example, the mayor of Barcelona, ​​Ada Colau. The Foreign Minister himself, Alfonso Dastis, has indicated that “he does not understand anything”.

Saving immigrants has become a risky activity. On Thursday, 73 miles off the Libyan coast, patrol boats from that country were about to strafe the organization’s ship for not delivering the women and children they had just rescued.

Anabel Montes herself sent a distress message through her Facebook profile: “Serious emergency situation in international waters, Libyan coast guard threatens to shoot our European-flagged ship and crew, unless we transfer them the women and children we have rescued from a boat in danger of shipwreck, extremely serious situation in European waters.

The Italian Coast Guard washed their hands, indicating that the rescue operations were coordinated by the Libyans. Something unusual, since, since a year ago the NGO began operating in the area, it had been coordinating with the Italian and Maltese authorities. The ship managed to escape, however, to the north, but Italy denied them a berth. This delay, indicates the NGO, cost the death by starvation to one of the immigrants. In the end they arrived at Pozzallo, but the Italian Justice fell on them.

“No kidding, they are investigated for crimes that carry penalties of between four and seven years in prison,” says lawyer Margarita Montes, Anabel’s aunt. “They have taken a statement and confiscated cell phones, they can not leave the ship, Anabel’s father could talk to her, she is fine, although worried,” the lawyer said. Prosecutor Zuccaro said a year ago that the non-rescue organizations were coordinating with the mafias, from which they even received financing.

The founder of Open Arms, Óscar Camps, defended on Twitter the refusal of the ship’s crew to deliver the rescued refugees. “Preventing the rescue of lives in danger on the high seas in order to forcibly return them to an unsafe country – such as Libya – is tantamount to carrying out a hot return, and it contravenes the UN Refugee Statute” , he indicated. And he added: “Protecting human life at sea should be the absolute priority, as stipulated by the law of the sea.”

A Spanish aid worker, held in Italy for not returning refugees to Tripoli

Minister Dastis affirmed yesterday morning that the Government is working with the NGO’s responsible to “clarify” the situation of the ship and “try to clear up any problem that may exist”. “We have since yesterday (on Sunday) the Consulate in Naples and the honorary consul in Catania in contact with the captain of the ship and with those responsible for the NGO who already have a lawyer,” he said. The lawyer is Rosa Emanuela Lo Faro, who told the Italian media that the only crime that can be attributed to the NGO is “solidarity”, since no one commits crimes for “helping people”.


Source: La Opinion Coruna