Thousands of people die each year when they reach Europe via the Mediterranean coast off the coast of Africa. Only 2018, the death number was nearly 2,300.
The numbers certainly could have been higher if some volunteer captains, such as Pia Klemp, in Germany, were on their ships to rescue the migrants from the sinking boat.
The crew of the rescue ship, named Yuventa, Pia Clamp, served as Captain, so far rescuing about 14,000 people from the sinking boats of the Mediterranean. Pia Klemp herself was directly involved in the rescue of about 6,000 people.
But Pia Klempe is now facing the possibility of 20 years in prison after being subjected to stringent anti-immigration laws of Italy’s extreme right-wing government.
36 years-old, Pia Klemp is a German scientist. After her graduation in biology, she first began her career as a trainer for the diver. At that time, she noticed that the aquatic creatures in the sea are in danger due to excessive pollution and uncontrolled fishing.
As a result, she joined an international marine conservation organization called Sea Shepherd. She later assumed the responsibility of running an organization called Aquascope. Those who work against confessing illegal fishing.
But beyond these two identities, Pia Klemp’s primary character is as a captain on a rescue ship in the Mediterranean. She was a member of an NGO named “Sea Watch,” Who works to rescue migrants from sinking boats in the Mediterranean.
As part of Sea Watch’s activities, Pia saved drowning people at various times and transported them to Lampedusa Island, Italy. Sometimes they were handed over to the Italian Coast Guard or the European Union Military Ship.
Many of the boats that migrate to Europe from different countries on the North African coast, especially from Libya, do not capacity to arrive in Europe. As a result, the boats started sinking in the middle. Since 2014, At least 12,000 people have been killed in the Mediterranean in such a ship.
The United Nations has described the sea route from Libya to Italy as the most dangerous sea route in the world. From 2015, The European Union has launched a search and rescue operation under Operation Sofia to rescue drowning migrants. In the first year alone, Operation Sofia rescued at least 13,000 people.
After their rescue, most of them used to be placed in different countries of Europe, especially Italy. As a result, there was harsh criticism in Italy of such rescue efforts from the beginning.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio compared the rescuers with the taxi & said that although the migrants were not in danger, the ships picked them up and made their way to Italy.
On the other hand, the country’s other deputy prime minister and Home Minister Matteo Salvini accused such rescue companies as the human trafficking mafia. Both of them complain that people try to sail more often because of the presence of rescuers.
In some cases, their accusations are true. But a large number of people travel to Europe to save a life from civil war and poverty in various African countries. Compared to them, the number of immigrants seeking opportunities is much lower.
An Italian researcher named Matteo Via analyzed the data obtained from the Italian Coast Guard and found that there was no statistical correlation of the number of migrants seeking to reach Europe with the number of rescuers stationed in the Mediterranean.
Due to pressure from Italy, the European Union narrowed its rescue operations. On the other hand, Italy has started funding Libya’s unskilled coastguard and militias that are out of government control.
As if they had taken the migrants’ boats back to Libya. These steps reduced the number of migrants arriving in Europe compared to the previous year But increased the death toll.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in 2017, out of 38 safely arrived migrants, one migrant has died. In 2018, out of 14 safely arrived migrants, one migrant has died. That is, the death rate has increased almost tripled in proportion.
Also in this year, thousands of migrants who have been captured by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libya, have suffered the plight of many.
Volunteer rescuers like Pia Clamp were working to save the lives of immigrants in such a situation. On the one hand, when the European Union restricted their activities, and on the other hand, commercial ships were avoiding migrant boats in fear of getting into trouble, these rescue workers were the last reliance for the migrants.
According to Roland Schilling, regional representative of the European Commission for Refugees in the United Nations, Europe, the death toll would undoubtedly have increased if these NGOs & ships were not.
Like many other volunteer rescuers, Pia Klemp was involved in rescuing immigrants during the summer of 2017. At that time, she served as Captain of a rescue ship named “Yuventa.” Under her supervision, Yuventa was able to rescue 3,800 people in a single day.
But when she went to reach the rescued immigrants to Italy, Italian authorities detained Yuventa. She was banned from operating on the coast of Italy.
Italy accuses her and nine of her co-workers about encouraging illegal immigration to migrate to Italy. Italian authorities claim they have evidence that Pia Klemp and her colleagues are working together with smugglers.
Although two years have passed, the Italian has not yet formally charged any charges against them.
In 2018, after electing an extreme right-wing government, a new dimension added against Pia. Last year, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called for the arrest of Pia Klemp for violating Italian law.
Pia’s lawyers have recently been told that if she convicted of the charge, she could face a maximum of 20 years in prison. At the same time, she could be fined 15000 euros for each immigrant being transported to Italy.
Many have spoken out in favor of Pia Klemp.
Amnesty International, an international human rights organization, called the accusation a dangerous sign. President of the Italian Doctors Without Borders, Claudia Lodessani, compares the fine to the Captain of the rescued ship with the penalty of the driver of the patient-carrying ambulance.
On the other hand, her fans have launched a petition at Change Dot Org, referring to Pia Klemp as a humanitarian activist. Pia Klemp says she will never accept 20 years sentence as a reward for rescuing people. Shee will go to the European Human Rights Court if needed.
She alleges that thousands of people are dying each year in the Mediterranean because of the hard position of populist leaders such as Italian Home Minister Matteo Salvani, former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, and German Home Minister Horst Seehofer.