Spanish ship seized by Italy for saving migrants from Libya - Whisper Eye

Spanish ship seized by Italy for saving migrants from Libya

Italian authorities have seized a Spanish charity’s rescue ship after it brought 216 migrants stranded off the coast of Libya to Sicilian shores.

Proactive Open Arms picked up the migrants and refused to release them to the Libyan coastguard, which would have returned them to Africa.

A public prosecutor in Sicily ordered the boat’s seizure after it docked in the port town of Pozzallo on Sunday.

Crew members are suspected of criminal association in illegal immigration.

The case highlights tensions between humanitarian organisations rescuing migrants at sea and EU states that have sought to reduce the number of migrants making dangerous boat crossings to reach the continent.

On Thursday, the rescue ship went to help two boats 73 miles off the Libyan coast, after a notification by the Italian coastguard.

However the Italians then told the Spanish group’s ship that the Libyan coastguard was in charge of the operation, according to the AFP news agency.

Proactiva Open Arms’ founder Oscar Camps tweeted that the Libyan patrol boats threatened to open fire on their rescue dinghies and demanded the charity hand over “the women and children” they had rescued.

The group refused.