Italy police seize NGO rescue boat for allegedly aiding illegal migration


According to the latest figures from the worldwide Organization for migration (IOM), more than 111 000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea since the first of January, of which almost 95 000 in Italy.

"The Italian authorities have shown today that they consider it more important to keep refugees and migrants away from their shores than to protect their lives and welfare".

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said last week that the naval mission was being organized following a request from Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of conflict-torn Libya's UN-backed unity government.

The Libyan eastern commander of Dignity Operation forces, Khalifa Haftar, has ordered to bombard any warships sailing into the Libyan waters, in a U-turn that could see escalations between eastern Libya and the UN-proposed government's bodies in western Libya get tense.

Earlier on Friday, Libya's unity government said it had only requested logistical and technical support for Libyan coastguard from Italy, Libya's LANA news agency reported. An Italian navel vessel, the Comandante Borsini, entered Libyan waters shortly after the vote, and more are expected to follow suit in the coming days.

Libya's eastern-based parliament, which is also recognized internationally, is a rival to Tripoli and is allied with Hifter.

Italy's lower house voted by 328 to 113 in favour of the mission, while the upper house voted by 191 to 47.

Italy's defense minister has insisted the mission won't be a naval blockade, although lawmakers from the anti-migrant Northern League, an opposition party, are demanding just that. After a surge in migrant arrivals from Libya at the start of the year, the number of newcomers has slowed. They allegedly noted at least three incidents when, instead of being rescued at sea, the migrants were simply "handed over" to the crew by people smugglers. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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Some 2,230 migrants, majority Africans fleeing poverty and violence at home, died in the first seven months of 2017 trying to make the sea crossing.

"The evidence is serious", Cartosio said.

Italy's migration crisis is further compounded by its neighbors, like Switzerland, Austria and France, tightening their border controls in a bid to prevent migrants crossing the Alps.

But Italians are getting exhausted of playing host to thousands of migrants.

The German NGO migrant rescue boat has been put under preventive seizure as Italian authorities investigate what they suspected could be aiding people smuggling.

It is the first time Italian police have seized a humanitarian boat.

A charity boat operating in the Mediterranean allegedly colluded with people smugglers to accept multiple "deliveries" of migrants, investigators have revealed. There was no immediate comment from Jugend Rettet.