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German sea captain faces 20 years in jail for migrant rescue efforts

A GERMAN sea captain faces a 20-year prison sentence for helping to rescue more than 1,000 migrants at risk of drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.

Pia Klemp, one of just a handful of female boat captains, warned that “sea rescue missions have become criminalised” as she vowed to fight her case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

She is the latest victim of the far-right Italian government’s crackdown on desperate migrants trying to reach Europe by sea, which has seen those engaging in humanitarian rescue missions charged with “assisting illegal immigration.”

Ms Klemp captained the Iuventa, along with the Sea Watch III rescue ship, and her efforts have saved more than 1,000 migrants from a possible watery grave while attempting the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean.

She explained that her actions are lawful and protected by the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea.

According to its article 98, “every state shall require the master of a ship” to “render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost” and “proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of persons in distress.”

A coalition of Green Pirate and independent MEPs at the European Parliament tweeted in support of Ms Klemp yesterday. 

"Our group sends solidarity to Pia Klemp – a German boat captain – & Domenico Lucano – the former Mayor of Riace, both being accused in #Italy of ‘aiding illegal immigration’.

“People saving lives and showing solidarity to refugees & migrants must not be criminalised! #FreePia.”

Scott Ainslie, the new Green MEP for London, told the Star: “That someone who from the highest humanitarian motives has been acting to save lives should be facing jail for that action is scandalous.

“She was acting according to long-established rules of the sea, helping people in deadly peril, and showing human care and concern far above the ordinary.

“I was proud to stand with my colleagues in the Greens/EFA group in the parliament holding signs supporting the campaign for her to be freed. I urge Londoners, and all Britons, to back the campaign.”

Between 15,000 and 20,000 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean since 2014, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Many were fleeing war, persecution and extreme exploitation.

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