All NGOs should sign code - Avramopoulos

Commissioner tells ANSA problem when migrants not detained

03 August, 18:19

    European Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos European Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos

    BRUSSELS - European Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told ANSA in an interview on Thursday that he wants all NGOs conducting migrant rescues in the Mediterranean to sign the Italian-drafted code of conduct for these operations. "I'm sorry that some NGOs decided not to sign the code of conduct," Avramopoulos said.
    "We must all work together to dismantle the traffickers' business model and avoid migrant deaths. This is why I again call on all the NGOs to join the initiative.
    "The broader the scale of our common work, the better the results on the ground will be". He also said that "return processing needs to be accelerated and the procedures need to be streamlined.
    "Part of the problem is also that once a person in Italy is told they have to return, if they are not detained, then they have no incentive to cooperate with the authorities anymore," Avramopoulos continued.
    He said that a law drafted by Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti was "a good step forward in this direction".
    "The Commission is ready to support Italy in implementing the changes needed," he said. Avramopoulos told ANSA that it is possible that the Operation Sophia could be deployed in Libyan waters in the future. "At the moment, priority should be given to what can be done under the current mandate of Operation Sophia which was just renewed with added tasks," he said after the Italian navy started a mission to support the Libyan coast guard against human traffickers. "But the possibility of the Operation moving to a third stage working in Libyan waters was foreseen from the beginning. If the Libyan authorities ask for this, we should be ready to act".
    The European Commission also said Thursday that it has faith in the Italian authorities regarding the case of the Iuventa, a ship operated by German NGO Jugend Rettet that has been confiscated in relation to a probe into alleged aiding of illegal immigration. "We know about the incident but we don't have details about whether it is the result of the code of conduct for the NGOs or something else," EC spokesperson Mina Andreeva said. "We have confidence in the Italian authorities that are handling the case".
    The NGO's Dutch-flagged Iuventa ship was confiscated on Wednesday at the Italian island of Lampedusa. No members of the NGO have been charged so far and prosecutors in the Sicilian city of Trapani said that they believed Jugend Rettet's activists were working for humanitarian reasons and did not have direct relations with the traffickers.
    However, photos that seem to show an incident when migrants were not rescued at sea but were effectively handed over by traffickers sparked almost unanimous condemnation on social media, with many users blasting it as "shameful".
    Jugend Rettet put out a statement on Twitter Thursday saying that it was sorry it was unable to conduct search and rescue at the moment, adding that the "rescue of human life is and will be top priority". Jugend Rettet was one of several NGOs conducting rescues in the Mediterranean that this week refused to sign a new code of conduct at the interior ministry. The Commission has said NGOs that do not sign the code will not be guaranteed access to Italian ports.
    Leonardo Marino, a lawyer representing Jugend Rettet, said Thursday that "we will appeal against the confiscation of the ship Iuventa".
    He said the appeal with regard the computers and documents seized, not just the vessel itself.

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