'Sea Rescues Have Been Criminalized' as German Boat Captain Faces 20 Years in Prison For Saving Refugees
"We have only followed international law, especially the law of the sea, where the highest priority is to save people from distress."
A German boat captain faces a long and costly trial in Italy for charges targeting her humanitarian efforts on behalf of refugees.
"Italy's fascists are using this case as a showcase to deter others from aiding migrants. They would prefer to let people drown in the Mediterranean."
Captain Pia Klemp, 35, told Basler Zeitung on June 7 that her upcoming trial in Italy for years of efforts with the civilian lifeboat "Iuventa" that saved at least 1,000 lives will take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Klemp faces up to 20 years in prison, but, she said, whether or not she ends up in jail—she would challenge any conviction in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France if necessary—the damage has been done.
"The worst has already come to pass," said Klemp. "Sea rescue missions have been criminalized."
Pia Klemp, a German biologist & boat captain faces 20 yrs in prison for rescuing 1,000+ migrants at risk of drowning whilst crossing the Mediterranean. Seeking asylum is a human right. Only 1 in 100 sea captains are female. This woman is a humanitarian, not a criminal. #FreePia pic.twitter.com/VPgacPUfco
— Vivian Angrisani (@VivianAngrisani) June 8, 2019
The Italian charges against Klemp come as part of an anti-immigration crackdown by far-right Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who ran on imposing harsh penalties on refugees.