Dutch ships linked to human trafficking ring
The Judiciary in Italy is investigating two ships that sail under the Dutch flag for possible involvement in a human trafficking ring believed to consist of aid organizations and smugglers in Libya, the Telegraaf reported on Tuesday. The Italian authorities believe that some aid organizations have arrangements with criminal gangs that send asylum seekers from Africa onto the Mediterranean on rickety boats, according to the newspaper.
Sicilian prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro confirmed the investigation into Dutch involvement to the newspaper. Minister Bert Koenders of Foreign Affairs previously stated that their is no evidence of Dutch aid being involved in trafficking.
The two Duttch ships are sailing off the coast of Libya, picking up asylum seekers who got into trouble on the water. According to the newspaper, the smugglers give the asylum seekers cellphones and telephone numbers, so that they can contact the aid organizations to pick them up at sea and take them to Italy. If the traffickers know that aid organizations have life boats nearby, they crowd as many asylum seekers onto the rickety boats as they can.
The Sicilian judiciary is not focusing on Dutch aid organizations in its investigation, but on two ships sailing under the Dutch flag. The ships in question sail for German organizations Sea Watch and Jugend Rettet. But as they sail under the Dutch flag, they are considered Dutch territory on international waters, which means Dutch law applies.