Immigration: Rescuing boat people is no crime

8 October 2009
Die Tageszeitung

, 1 January 1970

It is not a crime to save human life. The sheer obviousness of the conclusion drawn on 7 October by a court in Agrigente, Sicily, has been greeted with exasperation and relief by the German press, which angrily reports on "a shameful trial." In the summer of 2004, Italian authorities opted to arrest Elias Bierdel, a former director of the NGO Cap Anamur, for rescuing 37 African refugees from a sinking boat in the Mediterranean and transporting them onto dry land. Five years later, the charge of "aiding illegal immigration" has now officially been dropped. "The perverse charges that were designed to criminalize relief workers and present them as refugee smugglers have been dismissed," writes Tageszeitung, on "a fitting end to a trial that should have never begun." The Berlin daily considers that the main purpose of the court action was "to show that protesters who actively oppose Italy's and Europe's anti-refugee policies will have to contend with the full force of state oppression." It concludes that "if the court judgement had any value, it would emphasize the absolute duty to rescue those in danger at sea, and the state's obligation to accept refugees."