Pia Klemp, a 35 year old German boat captain, is facing up to 20 years in prison for rescuing refugees who were drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. Klemp is accused by authorities in Italy, for “assisting in illegal immigration,” and if convicted, she will serve her sentence in an Italian prison.
Klemp works with a charity called Sea-Watch that conducts rescue missions for people who are stranded in the Mediterranean Sea. The vast majority of the people who are rescued in these missions are refugees coming from Africa and the Middle East.
However, the charges against her claim that she coordinated with smugglers to collect migrants at rendezvous points, and that the “rescue” missions were just a deception to avoid legal charges, for what was actually an elaborate smuggling operation.
Klemp denies the charges against her and insists that her actions to save people from distress were totally legal according to international law.
Pia Klemp faces 20 years in prison. Her ‘crime’? Rescuing people at risk of drowning in the Mediterranean. Seeking…
“We have only followed international law, especially the law of the sea, where the highest priority is to save people from distress. The rescue is criminalized. We are already paralyzed. And that’s why people are dying on the Mediterranean,” Klep told the Swiss paper Basler Zeitung, according to the Standard.
Klemp is known worldwide as a charity worker and humanitarian, but now she is being treated like a criminal. Over 183,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Italy drop the charges against her.
“We are accused of aiding and abetting illegal entry. On it stands up to 20 years imprisonment and horrendous fines. We are facing a year-long show trial. The legal and legal costs alone will amount to over 300,000 euros (£266,000) plus travel and campaign costs,” Klemp explained.
Hannes Seidel, who organized the petition called the criminalization of sea rescues an “unconditional surrender of humanity in Europe”.
Seidel pointed out that these people who are fleeing to Europe need help and shouldn’t be treated as criminals.
“This is an injustice to all the people in need who, out of desperation, flee across the Mediterranean Sea and risk their lives,” he added.
15% of people crossing from north Africa die at sea, according to the refugee charity “Help Refugees.”
The persecution of Klemp is reportedly part of a larger immigration crack-down that was implemented last year by the newly appointed Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.
This case is similar to that of Scott Warren, a college professor, and charity worker who was facing up to 20 years in prison for leaving food and water for immigrants near the border, and also providing a safe house for them to stay the night. Luckily, a jury was unable to come to a decision in the case, and a mistrial was declared. The jurors in the case were deadlocked, with 8 believing that he was innocent and 4 believing that he was guilty. After much deliberation, each side said that there was nothing that could change their minds, so the judge declared a mistrial.