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Jeroen van Wijngaarden. Photo supplied

Picking up migrants at sea should be crime, says Dutch party

The Dutch registered Sea Watch 3 vessel has been the focus of much controversy recently. A Dutch party has denounced NGO's for picking up migrants at sea.

Published: July 7, 2019, 12:23 pm

    The Hague

    Dutch Coalition party the VVD has proposed to make it a crime to pick up migrants at sea, despite international treaties maintaining that it should be an obligation under any circumstances.

    The plan has a working majority in parliament, thanks to the support of cabinet partner the Christian Democrats (CDA) and the opposition PVV, FvD and SGP, according to Dutch daily the NRC.

    However, the two smaller coalition parties, D66 and the ChristenUnie, are strongly opposed to the move.

    The issue has become a bone of contention in the Netherlands because of the Dutch-registered vessel Sea Watch 3’s role in picking up migrants from human traffickers off the coast of Libya. The migrants try to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa with the help of smugglers.

    This week the German captain of the Sea Watch 3, Carola Rackete, was cleared by an Italian judge of assisting illegal migration despite her illegal actions. She was arrested after landing in Sicily with a group of migrants, but the judge said she was fulfilling her “duty to save human lives”.

    The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea established a duty for vessels to offer assistance to people and other ships in distress on the high seas. However, VVD MP Jeroen van Wijngaarden said he wanted the law to ensure that rescue missions were not used to facilitate human trafficking.

    Sea-Watch3 skipper Carola Rackete meanwhile has accused Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of breaching human rights with his policy of closing ports to NGO run migrant rescue ships. Her accusations were leveled in an interview published on Saturday by German weekly Der Spiegel.

    “Salvini’s policy violated human rights: his way of expressing himself is disrespectful, it is not appropriate for a high-level politician,” she said after the minister branded her a rich Communist “scamp”.

    The crew of the Sea-Watch3, she added, sent daily medical reports on the condition of the 42 rescued migrants, also to the Italian rescue centre in Rome, “but no one listened, no one responded”.

    Rackete’s lawyer said on Friday the German NGO captain was set to sue Salvini for instigating crimes after he called her release “disgraceful”.

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