A Spanish firefighter has been accused of human trafficking by the Italian authorities for rescuing “drowning” migrants in the Mediterranean with a humanitarian NGO.
According to local media, 32-year-old Miguel Roldan from the southern Spanish city of Seville took part in a rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea with the German NGO Jugend Rettet which aims to “save drowning persons”.
They were on board the ship ‘Iuventa’, which sails under the Dutch flag, when it was seized in August 2017 on suspicion of assisting human traffickers.
Along with nine other suspects, Roldan is accused of trafficking even though, according to the Spanish firefighter, he never thought that rescuing people could potentially end up with him behind bars.
He said: “It doesn’t make sense. During the entire operation, nobody told us that we were doing something wrong.
“Everything is coordinated and regulated by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome. If Rome tells you no, it means no.
“We had a situation where we were not allowed to rescue people because Rome did not give us authorisation.”
According to Roldan, the team of volunteers rescued the migrants and transferred them onto two larger NGO shops with a capacity of 1,500 people.
Roldan said that the ships then took to the migrants to an unspecified Italian port.
At present, there is not a date set for the trial and local media estimates that the legal procedure will cost around 500,000 EUR (428,000 GBP).