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Civilian marine rescue workers at a court in Italy

Twenty-one volunteers and three aid organizations from the Civilian Maritime Rescue are on trial tomorrow on the Italian island of Sicily. The four German crew members of the naval rescue ship “Iuventa” have to respond in Trapani in the morning (10:30 a.m.) to aid and abet the illegal entry of persons seeking protection into Italy.

At the preliminary hearing, it is first decided whether the men and women will be tried. According to the defendant’s attorney, this could take months. If the process is allowed, volunteers will face up to 20 years in prison.

From 2016 to 2017, the Iuventa team worked in the central Mediterranean to rescue distressed refugees on their way from North Africa to the European Union. The members were accused of working with people smugglers. They strongly deny it. In August 2017, the authorities confiscated the ship. Since then, it has remained unused in Sicily.

The organizations complain about the criminalization of aides and fear that the civilian sea rescue will be harmed. In Italy, rescue missions by various organizations in the Mediterranean have been under criticism for years. Right-wing parties are particularly opposed to the operations because a large proportion of refugees from the Mediterranean arrive in Italy.

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