Dutch PM’s party wants imprisonment for aiding migrants at sea

Refugees on a Sea Watch ship
Refugees on board the Sea-Watch 3 rescued from a ship sinking near Libya. December 2018Photo: Chris Grodotzki / Sea-Watch

Ruling party VVD wants idealists who without permission rescue migrants from rickety boats at sea to be prosecuted for facilitating human trafficking. A proposal submitted to this effect received majority support in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, AD reports.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte's right-wing party wants crew members of boats sailing under the Dutch flag who perform such unauthorized "rescue operations" to face up to four years in prison or a fine of up to 83 thousand euros. "Organizations that deliberately sail along the coast of an area where human traffickers are active form the last link in a chain of human smugglers that reaches far into Africa", VVD parliamentarian Jeroen van Wijngaarden said. "They do not actually constitute a rescue service, but a ferry service."

An example of such a ship is the Sea Watch 3. The ship regularly rescues people in the Mediterranean sea, who are then stuck on the ship for long periods of time because no EU countries want to take them in. In May the Italian government allowed dozens of people on the ship ashore, months after they were rescued by Sea Watch. Italy also confiscated the ship. 

In April the Dutch government implemented stricter rules for ships involved in the rescue of refugees and other migrants from the sea, to make sure that the ships and their crew are equipped to care for the people on board for longer periods.