Óscar Camps, the founder of the Spanish charity told Catalan broadcaster Rac1 that the former Barça coach had come to their aid.
“Pep came to see us, he even talked about coming to the boat to help, and not only him, other athletes also showed interest in helping out.”
“Guardiola helped us but there are other athletes who have also wanted to collaborate,” Camps revealed in an interview on Tuesday.
— RAC1 (@rac1) June 12, 2018
Italian authorities held the Open Arms illegal-migrant “rescue” boat for almost a month and investigated two of its crew on suspicion of enabling illegal immigration in connection with a rescue operation that it carried out off the northern Libyan coast.
Proactiva’s rescue ship was being held on court orders in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo, where it arrived carrying some 200 migrants that it had collected from rubber dinghies that human traffickers had towed out in the waters off Libya.
According to the Italian coast guard, Libyan authorities are responsible for patrolling the area and taking in people “rescued” there, under a migration agreement between Italy and Libya designed to reduce the number of crossings from North Africa to southern Europe.
Having gone to the aid of two vessels left to drift for them by the traffickers and taken 218 people on board the Open Arms, Proactiva refused the Libyan coast guard’s orders to hand over the migrants. According to the aid group, Libyan guards allegedly threatened to kill their crew if they did not surrender their human bounty.
Instead the Spanish NGO ship sailed for Sicily, in what Italian prosecutors say was part of a deliberate plan to smuggle the migrants to Italy.
They accuse the ship’s captain, one of its coordinators, and the founder of Proactiva, Oscar Camps, of “criminal association and encouraging illegal immigration”, Camps said on Twitter, adding that no charges had yet been filed and the seizure of the ship was a precaution.
The group was not aware that the zone in question was under the Libyan coast guard’s authority and did nothing wrong, one of its lawyers told Reuters. According to another Proactiva spokesperson, the Italian coast guard had asked the NGO to go collect the migrants in the first place.
However, Italy’s coast guard stated that international norms usually require ships to wait for their country of origin to arrange where migrants rescued at sea should be taken. The Open Arms sailed for Italy while still awaiting directions from the Spanish government and despite the fact that it was closer to Malta at the time, the coast guard said.
Proactiva was one of only a handful of NGOs that has agreed to sign the Italian government’s code of conduct on migrant search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, which imposes conditions including that ships must have an Italian police official on board and that NGOs cannot sail into Libyan waters unless lives are at risk. However it does not cover human traffickers deliberately towing un-powered dinghies out and leaving them there to drift. In other words pushing someone into the water so you can play hero and “rescue” them
Italy seized another rescue ship, the Iuventa, in August last year on similar allegations that the German NGO that operates it, Jugend Rettet, had facilitated illegal immigration. The ship remains impounded in Lampedusa, despite the group’s efforts to get it back.
More than 700,000 migrants are believed to have reached Italy by boat in the past four years, though arrivals fell by 34 percent in 2017, according to the EU border agency. The drop is largely attributed to Italy’s accord with Libya, which NGO Proactiva Arms obviously disregarded which has seen the Libyan coast guard assume responsibility for a large part of “rescue” operations.
Proactive Open Arms revealed its benefactor a day after the new Spanish government headed by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez offered to take in 629 migrants that had been turned away from both Malta and Italy.
Another even more concerning development is the announcement by Fernando Grande-Marlaska, the newly appointed Interior Minister in the government of Communist prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, has indicated his desire to remove the controversial razor wire designed to deter migrants from crossing illegally from Morocco into Spain.
NGOs have long been calling for removal of razor wire installed along stretches of the border fences that divide Spain’s city enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla from neighbouring Morocco.
The new interior minister, an anti-terror judge who was appointed last week by Pedro Sanchez, pledged to remove them as soon as possible.
“I’m going to do everything possible to see that these razor wire fences at Ceuta and Melilla are removed,” he said on Thursday in a radio interview with Onda Cero. “It’s one of my main priorities”.