‘Save the Children’ suspends rescue operations in Mediterranean

Migrants, in this file photo, are rescued during an operation off the coast of Libya. (Reuters)
Updated 23 October 2017
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‘Save the Children’ suspends rescue operations in Mediterranean

ROME: International humanitarian group Save the Children said on Monday it had suspended migrant rescues in the Mediterranean Sea as departures from Libya slow and security conditions worsen.
Save the Children has operated a ship, the Vos Hestia, since September last year, rescuing more than 10,000 migrants from dangerous and overcrowded boats launched by people smugglers.
“For too long, we have been the substitution for the inexistent and inadequate European policies for search and rescue and for hosting migrants,” Save the Children Director-General Valerio Neri said in a statement.
Italian police searched the Vos Hestia on Monday as part of a wider investigation into the role non-government organizations (NGOs) are playing in picking up migrants off the Libya coast and bringing them to Italy.
Save the Children said its decision to halt rescues was already planned before the police search.
Earlier this year, the government asked humanitarian groups to sign a “code of conduct.” The government said the rescuers were providing an incentive for smugglers to put migrants to sea.
Police in August seized a migrant rescue boat operated by a German aid group Jugend Rettet. The chief prosecutor in the Sicilian city of Trapani said he had evidence of encounters between traffickers, who escorted illegal immigrants to the NGO boat, and members of its crew.
Jugend Rettet denied any wrongdoing.
Save the Children said in a statement it was not under investigation and was cooperating with authorities. The documents seized by police on Monday concerned “presumed illegal actions committed by third persons,” it said.
Several months ago, some 10 rescue ships took turns patrolling the North African coast, picking up migrants who reached international waters and bringing them to Italy.
Now only one large ship and a few small ones remain, with many organizations — including Doctors Without Borders — pulling out for various reasons, including security concerns and unhappiness with the attitude of the Italian authorities.
The Libyan Coast Guard, funded and trained by Italy, has taken a hostile stance toward the humanitarian boats in a series of incidents on the high seas.
In August, a Libyan vessel intercepted a charity ship and ordered it to sail to Tripoli or risk being fired on.
Departures from Libya have fallen dramatically since July, when an armed group that had been deeply involved in smuggling from the city of Sabratha began blocking departures.
So far in October sea arrivals to Italy are down more than 75 percent compared with the same month last year.


Pardoned Australian filmmaker to be deported from Cambodia

In this Aug. 29, 2018, file photo, Australian filmmaker James Ricketson, right, is helped off a prisoner truck upon his arrival at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (AP)
Updated 18 min 41 sec ago
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Pardoned Australian filmmaker to be deported from Cambodia

  • Ricketson repeatedly insisted he had no political agenda and his work making documentary films was journalistic in nature

PHNOM PEHN, Cambodia: An Australian filmmaker was awaiting deportation from Cambodia on Saturday after receiving a royal pardon for his conviction on spying charges for flying a drone over a political rally.
A spokesman for immigration police said that James Ricketson will be deported on Saturday morning, a day after being released from prison.
“We are now checking a flight for him,” Gen. Keo Vanthan told The Associated Press.
Ricketson, 69, was sentenced to six years in a trial his sympathizers described as farcical because prosecutors never specified whom he was spying for and failed to present evidence that he possessed or transmitted any secrets. He had been detained without bail since June last year in harsh conditions.
He was arrested after flying a drone to photograph a rally of the Cambodian National Rescue Party — the only credible opposition party that was later dissolved by the courts at the instigation of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.
His pardon is the latest in a series of releases of political prisoners after the ruling party’s landslide victory in a July election that critics and observers said was deeply flawed.
Ricketson repeatedly insisted he had no political agenda and his work making documentary films was journalistic in nature.
His Aug. 31 conviction was met with only lukewarm public concern from Australia’s prime minister and foreign minister. Their public stance was criticized, but also led to speculation that an understanding might have been reached with Cambodian authorities for Ricketson’s early release.
Ricketson’s lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, said Friday that his client would go first to Phnom Penh and then travel to Australia.
“James will go back to his home country after he is released, but later he will be back to Cambodia because the pardon letter doesn’t bar him from re-entering Cambodia,” he said. However, there is no official statement guaranteeing he will be readmitted.
Ricketson had said during his trial that he wished to re-establish a project that he had launched before his arrest to buy some land to resettle several poor Cambodian families who have been living at a garbage dump. He and several character witnesses had testified that he provided financial assistance to several poverty stricken Cambodians.