Save the Children Suspends Migrant Rescue Operations
On Monday, Italian police boarded the migrant search and rescue vessel Vos Hestia in the port of Catania, Sicily to search for evidence related to "alleged illicit conduct committed by third parties." The Vos Hestia's charterer, the NGO Save the Children, emphasized in a statement that the search is solely targeting "material for crimes that currently do not concern the work of our organization."
Italian media outlets report that the Prosecutor's Office of Trapani – the same office pursuing an investigation of the German rescue NGO Jugend Rettet – received a report from an onboard security officer and initiated the search to follow up. According to Italian outlet Il Messaggero, police have taken the ship's log, along with computers, a cell phone and a sat phone. Both Jugend Rettet and Save the Children assert that they have always complied with the law during their search and rescue operations.
In its statement on Monday, Save the Children announced the cessation of its search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Valerio Neri, the director of the NGO’s Italian branch, said that the halt was already planned. "The decision comes after after carefully assessing the reduction in the flow of migrants trying to cross the central Mediterranean to reach Europe, and the changing security and effectiveness of sea-going search and rescue operations in the area," Neri said. “For too long we have been the substitution for the inexistent and inadequate European policies for search and rescue.”
In August, rescue NGOs Sea Eye and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also suspended their maritime rescue operations off Libya, citing threats from the navy of the Libyan Government of National Accord.