Tunisian sailors arrested for saving illegal immigrants

29 Aug 2007 | 462 words | africa europe border mediterranean dead people

So the Italians and the Spanish are claiming that this year there are much less immigrants trying to enter Europe via their shores, islands and outposts on the african mainland than last year. while this may be true this does neither mean that less people are dying on the Atlantic or in the Mediterranean while trying to get to Europe nor is it something that these governments should be particularly proud of. Looks like the italian authorities have just managed find themselves another way of ‘protecting’ europe form the ‘influx’ of African migrants:

Project meltingpot reports (in italian) that the authorities in Lampedusa arrested seven tunisian sailors for saving immigrants from drowning at sea. In case you can’t read italian (neither can i) the Maltese independent has a shorter article available in english:

On 8 August, seven Tunisian fishermen were arrested at Lampedusa and charged with having saved the lives of 44 migrants from rough seas 40 miles south of Lampedusa. The seven have been charged with having helped illegal immigrant trafficking, the same charge that was to be made against Raymond Bugeja. The seven are the two captains of two fishing boats from Monastir and their five-man crew.

The immigrants that included 11 women and two children had launched an SOS on a satellite phone.

While the Italian agency ADN Kronos claimed the two fishing vessels were the much discussed ‘mother ships’ which are said to bring the illegal immigrants to just below the horizon of either Malta or Lampedusa and from there launch the small boats the asylum seekers come in, other Italian sources dispute this: they argue the two fishing vessels were easily identifiable as being mother ships. Besides, no trace of any small boat was found. It also seems there were some language difficulties as the Tunisian ships entered Italian waters when they had been ordered to stay out.

The end result was that the seven were arrested and kept in prison and their boats seized by the Agrigento authorities, the simple reason being that they had just helped people who were drowning.

update (30.aug.07): There is an much more detailed english article on the fortress europe blog.

Oh, and do read the IHT article linked at the beginning. it contains some of the worst rhetoric i have come across in a long time:

They are perhaps the most stark component of a quandary Europe has had much trouble solving: how to continue to meet its international obligation to protect those fleeing war and persecution while keeping out those it fears will form a permanent underclass or, in the worst cases, expose their countries to terrorism.

Guess that is why they stick ‘security checked’ stickers on cruise ship passengers disembarking in Amsterdam to head for the coffee shops…