Human rights groups have welcomed the acquittal in Italy of German charity workers charged with helping illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean. Three members of the Cap Anamur relief organisation were cleared in what’s being seen as a vindication of human rights. They were arrested in 2004 after picking up 37 people drifting helplessly at sea, and taking them to Sicily.
“It appears that such trials are aimed at sending out a signal to ships that they should not rescue people,” said Elias Bierdel from the Cap Anamur Aid Society. “That is a terrible perversion of justice, a terrible reversal of European values.”
Italy initially turned the ship away, but relented and let her dock when her captain issued an emergency signal. Cap Anamur said the boat people were mainly from war-torn Sudan, but Italy rejected appeals for asylum and deported them.
This summer, new Italian laws made it a crime to be an illegal immigrant, or to offer help. Campaigners say tough anti-immigration laws in Europe put lives at risk.