In just 2 days, almost 30 volunteers and leaders from sea rescue organizations which provide assistance to rescuees in the central Mediterranean have been investigated.
Known for launching numerous unsuccessful and fruitless investigations against NGOs operating at sea, Ragusa's Public Prosecutor's Office started things off by attacking Mediterranea Saving Humans alleging it took the heat off Maersk, one of the world's most important shipping companies, for a fee. Mare Jonio, Mediterranea's ship, took onboard 27 rescuees who had been on the Danish company's ship, Etienne, for 38 days after being denied a port of entry in Malta- the longest stand off of this type in history.
Obviously, Mediterranea pushed back on the allegation. Shortly afterwards, the same shipping company, which had not been contacted regarding the matter by the Public Prosecutor's Office, settled the issue by releasing the following public statement: "Maersk Tankers met with representatives of Mediterranea only after many months had passed since the rescue operation took place. We met in order to thank them for the humanitarian assistance they provided. After this meeting, we decided to cover the costs incurred by the operation. That is the reason why the amount of 125,000 Euro was given and with the complete support of the management...." Game, set, match.
New developments: The Court of Catania has requested an indictment of Doctors without Borders. After four years, Trapani's Public Prosecutor's Office had ended the same investigation which is being used to issue the indictment for aiding and abetting illegal immigration against Doctors without Borders and in this case, also against Save the Children.
In the Catania case, the charge against the NGOs is paradoxical: traffic of hazardous waste. This charge is attributed to the fact that the ship's waste disposal company disposed of rescuees' discarded clothing normally instead of treating the items as special and hazardous waste.
"The court decisions," says Doctors without Borders in a note," arrived within a few hours of each other and add to the already long list of numerous attempts to criminalize rescue at sea. As of today, none of these allegations have been substantiated. However, together with Europe's and Italy's cynical policies, these allegations have dangerously weakened rescue capabilities in the central Mediterranean to the dramatic extent of costing thousands of human lives."
It's obvious that these are not coincidences. In 2017, these same courts allowed for unsuccessful investigations which provided the foundation for the media's campaign against sea rescue organizations which characterized the efforts in the shameful aphorism: taxis of the sea. These moves are meant to undermine Minister Lamorgese's position on immigration. Right after government undersecretaries were nominated, she immediately clarified that immigration issues would remain her responsibility and would not be transferred to Nicola Molteni, the author of Salvini's infamous decrees.
Such judicial manouvering weakens even that part of the representative politics, wherein lies a vast majority of the govenment, that supports even the most advanced positions on immigration which call for a revision of policies which support Libya and its so-called Coast Guard.
These policies have cost almost a total 800 million Euro of which at least 213 million Euro have paid for missions which are officially classified as military and- in 2020 alone- 10 million Euro for the financing of militias that comprise the so-called Coast Guard. However, most importantly, Italy has been condemned by the United Nations and other international organizations because of its policies and for the widespread practice of collective pushbacks- a practice which denies the right of asylum to whomever is entitled to it.
Sovereignists who want walls, borders and closed ports have raised their voices yet again and joined the vain attack by factions within the judiciary who are unceasingly committed to conjuring theorectical allegations against sea rescue organizations. They would like to recreate the same cultural hegemony that had already been defeated by the repeal of the security decrees. From the time of Minniti to Salvini, sovereignists upended reality and common sense in order to rewrite the narrative to depict anyone involved in sea rescue as a delinquent rather than represent the reality of the violations of international conventions and human rights agreements.
(Translation by Liz Comacchio)
Journalist and president of the Milan-section of ARCI, the largest secular non-profit associations in Italy, Maso has been War reporter from Nicaragua, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq. In 2009 he started the PeaceReporter project, which developed into E-ilmensile, the monthly magazine of the non-profit Emergency. In 2018 he was one of the founders of Mediterranea Saving Humans, where he served as vice president for 1 year term until September 2020.
Read his blog in Italian here.