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Pia Klemp. Screenshot from Italian TV interview

German boat captain faces jail for trafficking migrants in Mediterranean

The captain of a German vessel faces "up to 20 years in prison and horrendous fines" for her part in saving migrants in the Mediterranean, but investigators have not yet set a date for a trial.

Published: June 15, 2019, 11:38 am

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    Pia Klemp, a 35-year-old Bonn native, has been charged of being personally responsible for up to 1 000 rescue missions, according to a report in the British Daily Mail. She has been under investigation since her vessel, the Iuventa, was impounded in the summer of 2017.

    Klemp was charged in Sicily with assisting in illegal immigration before her boat was impounded in 2017, but Klemp says she will take her case the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

    Some 78 432 people have signed a petition calling for impunity in her case as well as for wider incidences of sea rescues of migrants.

    The author of the petition said that charging Klemp and fellow members of private rescue ships boils down to the “unconditional surrender of humanity in Europe”.

    In an interview with the Swiss daily the Basler Zeitung, she complained that the money she will use in her legal defence – partly raised through donations – should have been used on rescue missions.

    It is alleged by investigators that under Klemp’s watch she was actually “collecting” migrants at specific rendezvous points, effectively closely working together with human traffickers. Italian prosecutors are investigating allegations of aiding and abetting illegal migration.

    Klemp and her comrades have rescued about 14 000 migrants, traveling the Mediterranean with the Iuventa and the Sea Watch 3. Instead of bringing the rescued back to where they came from, they have taken them to European ports.

    Sea Watch is one of several charities which has had its operations drastically cut back by Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, also Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister, who a year ago decreed that NGO boats should not be allowed into Italian ports.

    “She is of course very worried,” Ruben Neugebauer, a spokesman for Sea Watch, told British daily The Telegraph. “She and the crew were simply following the International Law of the Sea. But the situation in Italy and in Europe as a whole means that it takes courage to do that now.”

    On the occasion of World Refugee Day on June 15, an artist has made a 15 000 m² painting on the lawn of the Champ de Mars in Paris representing a hand extended to immigrants.

    The painting is in support of SOS Mediterranean, which picks up migrants at sea to bring them back to the EU. The artist Saype has been drawing for the past two weeks. The work is called “Beyond the walls”, reported Franceinfo .

    “It’s a fresco in the service of humanity,” said the artist at the inauguration of the work. The NGO SOS Méditerranée has been at the heart of controversy after several politicians accused NGOs of acting in the Mediterranean in “collusion” with smugglers.

    The gigantic fresco that covers the lawn was made with a biodegradable paint. As a result, it will only be visible for a week before disappearing.

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