Miguel Duarte, the young Portuguese accused by the Italian judiciary of the crime of aiding illegal immigration, confirmed to the PUBLIC that he was cleared of all charges this Wednesday by the Prosecutor of Trapani, Sicily, but underlines that the Case far is resolved from. The young man believes that despite the humanitarian crisis as a political issue, it is of vital importance that someone undertakes rescue missions and therefore plans to return to the Mediterranean soon.
Only a few crew members were released; For four volunteers, the trial should go to court. “Justice was not done. Humanitarian workers continue to be accused. My colleagues and friends will probably have to stand trial for several years for a crime they did not commit, ”said Miguel Duarte. If convicted, they face 20 years in prison.
The 28-year-old volunteer was accused of participating in rescue and rescue operations in the Mediterranean aboard the Iuventa ship operated by the German non-governmental organization Jugend Rettet (Juventude que Salva, in Portuguese), which he joined in 2016, which began as an investigation and grew quickly a formal charge – which was directed against “some crew members and also other crews of Médecins Sans Frontières and Save the Children,” he recalls. Ten people were accused in 2018.
The Iuventa ship remains out of service as it was arrested by the Italian public prosecutor’s office in 2017 after the investigation. “It was in operation for a year and saved 14,000 people. It has been prevented from operating for three and a half years, ”emphasizes Miguel.
However, the situation does not deter the young volunteer, who admits that he will return to rescue operations soon: “Very soon I will probably even return to the Mediterranean”. When he comes back it will “surely be through another organization,” he adds.
For Miguel, this voluntary action is “the most important thing there is”. Recognizing that boats do not solve the problem as “this is a political problem and the fight is political”, he stressed that “someone has to prevent these people from drowning”. Hence, it defends that the organizations and the volunteers that make them up are fundamental. “As long as our policies criminalize migration and humanitarian aid, the problem will not cease to exist. However, someone has to be there to do an emergency response, ”he concludes.