Italy Seized a Migrant Rescue Boat Which Participated in the Traffic of Illegal Immigrants
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, Reuters reports.
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.
Jugend Rettet said on Twitter it had received no information about the investigation. It could not be reached for further comment.
It was the first time Italian police have seized a humanitarian boat. The move came amidst 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."
Italian media reported the boat had two Syrians aboard who were taken to a refugee center, but that could not be immediately confirmed.
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