- Oct 8, 2016
Italian coastguards seized a migrant rescue boat operated by a German aid group in the Mediterranean suspected of aiding illegal immigration from Libya, a prosecutor said on Wednesday.
Video showed the Iuventa, which is run by Jugend Rettet, arriving at the island of Lampedusa surrounded by several coastguard vessels after it was stopped at sea before dawn.
Police inspected the ship as soon as it docked and checked the crew passports. They later took charge of the boat.
On board a seperate 'Save The Children' ship, an undercover police officer had gathered evidence that crew of the Iuventa had been colluding with Libyan migrant traffickers.
They crew of the Iuventa were photographed executing a migrant transfer with migrant traffickers who escorted the migrants to the ship. They communicated with the traffickers and then towed the traffickers' migrant boat back to Libya for re-use.
There is growing suspicion over the role non-governmental organizations are playing in picking up migrants off the Libya coast and bringing them to Italian ports.
Ambrogio Cartosio, chief prosecutor in the western Sicilian city of Trapani, told a news conference his investigation into Jugend Rettet was ongoing and no one had yet been charged.
"The evidence is serious," Cartosio said. "We have evidence of encounters between traffickers, who escorted illegal immigrants to the Iuventa, and members of the boat's crew."
Jugend Rettet, which describes itself as an organization of young Europeans, was one of five groups that refused to sign up to Italy's new code of conduct for NGOs trafficking migrants in the Mediterranean.
The 5-Star Movement, which polls say is now the country's biggest party, have accused NGOs of offering a "taxi" service to migrants, while the rightist Northern League party has said all their ships should be impounded.