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Our staff were present to offer assistance to migrants rescued by Open Arms

Months ago, after the ‘Code of conduct for NGOs involved in migrants’ rescue at sea’ was enforced by the Italian Ministry of the Interior, we feared that an actual war against migrants had begun. We carried on with our work, struggling against those who kept trying to drag NGOs through the mud. But what is going on right now made us realise that the war we feared is still ongoing, and is literally criminalising our society.

Our staff were present in Pozzallo to offer assistance to the 218 migrants who landed last Saturday, rescued by the ‘Open Arms’ ship that belongs to the Spanish NGO ProActiva, and impounded the next day. We are very worried by this seizure, a further step in the campaign to discredit those who deal with rescues at sea.

Migrants fleeing from Libya cannot be sent back to a country that doesn’t acknowledge any of the asylum policies established by international law. The current approach is destined to increase the number of people who die in the Mediterranean, and to further poison public debate. Our thoughts are with the mountain guide who is facing five years in prison for rescuing a Nigerian woman, eight months pregnant, who was trying to cross the border between Italy and France a few days ago. Is solidarity officially a crime?

EMERGENCY hopes that these accusations will be dismissed in court and that the investigations will be over soon, to demonstrate that assistance is a duty, not a crime.