Italy seizes German NGO’s boat off Libyan coast for aiding human trafficking

Migrants on a wooden boat are rescued by German NGO Jugend Rettet ship “Juventa” crew in the Mediterranean sea off Libya coast, June 18, 2017. [REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini]
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 reported.

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, according to Reuters.

Police inspected the ship as soon as it docked and checked the crew passports. They later took charge of the boat and set sail for a larger port in Sicilym Reuters added.

Jugend Rettet said on Twitter it had received no information about the investigation. It could not be reached for further comment, Reuters indicated.

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, said Reuters.

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, Reuters explained.

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