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Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Scafisti and the Irish Navy



I read about "scafisti" people who are forced to drive boats and then arrested as human smugglers, there are reports saying that Irish Navy are involved in detaining suspected smugglers and I presume the Irish Government might say its up to Italy to try them but Navy must have handed over lots of people to be detained in Italy...whats the process atleast?

Italy court clears accused people smugglers, says were forced to drive boats Steve Scherer Reuters 9 September 2016

I asked Clare Daly TD (Member of Parliament) about it and she asked a series of parliamentary questions(PQs).

I came across this Intercept article Italy Imprisons Refugees Who Were Forced to Pilot Smuggling Boats at Gunpoint Zach Campbell September 16 2017

“Many attorneys ask for plea bargains in order to get the quickest release of their clients,” said Fulvio Vassallo, an immigration lawyer and law professor at the University of Palermo. Vassallo explains that in Sicily, plea bargains or abbreviated trials can be a win-win for numbers-oriented prosecutors and defense lawyers alike.
Joof denies that he drove. “They told me I was accused of being the boat’s captain,” he told The Intercept in an interview in the center for underage asylum-seekers where he now lives, in a small town outside Palermo. “I told them, ‘No, I paid my money to come here.’ I asked them to see the evidence that I was a captain. And since 2015, they haven’t shown me any evidence that I’m the one who drove the boat.”
Joof was charged with "favoreggiamento" or “facilitating” illegal migration. It’s the lowest level smuggling charge you can get in Italy.
Look at the photo halfway down, it is captioned.

The LÉ Niamh, an Irish naval vessel participating in Mediterranean rescue operations, rescued 367 refugees off the coast of Libya, on Aug. 5, 2015. This photo provided by Joof’s lawyer show that after the rescue, police investigators put plastic wristbands on refugees they believed to be the skippers, as well as the witnesses that identified them. A similar process happened when Joof was rescued and accused of driving. Photo: Irish Navy

Is it it the Irish Navy that put these wristbands on the people they rescue.

Clare Daly TD asked a PQ and the gov said the Irish Navy didn't know why the article says the photo was taken by the the Irish Navy...
I am also advised that the Naval Service cannot stand over the provenance of the photograph used in the article in question and which is credited to 'Irish Navy'.
Other photos from the Defence Forces from that day where you can see the rough white material covering the grey deck of the Navy ship.

I asked the author of the article and he replied I" looked through my notes. That photo was part of a collection provided by the Irish navy to Joof's lawyer. If I remember correctly, I think she got them through evidential discovery in the court case. The photos were indeed shot aboard the LÉ Niamh " and again Clare Daly asked the government what other agencies operate on Irish Navy ships and government said none...,
These agencies are not operating or investigating on Irish Naval Service ships deployed in support of Operation Sophia.
but author of the article says
The wristbands and interviews happen aboard the ship while still at sea. I don't know whether that was Irish navy, Frontex, Italian or other. My guess is that it varies depending on the crew.

How do these bands get on their wrist if the Irish Navy doesn't do it and no other agency comes aboard the Irish ships as the government claims?

PQ to Minsiter defence about Operation Sophia by Aengus O Snodaigh10 May 2018
The core task of contributing to disrupting the smugglers' business model involves identifying potential smugglers when on search-and-rescue operations and handing them over to the Italian authorities when disembarking the rescued persons. Irish Naval Service ships have not intercepted smugglers but have identified them when they are rescued and have handed them over to the Italian authorities. All rescued migrants are embarked in Italian ports.

30 people smugglers handed over by navy crew Irish Examiner October 03, 2015 Sean O’Riordan
The ship’s captain, Lieutenant Commander Daniel Wall, said that when the refugees got on board his vessel, they felt safe and would approach the crew to point out members of smuggling gangs.

Lt Comdr Wall said those identified were then isolated from the rest of the refugees and pointed out to Italian authorities when the ship dropped them in ports.

LÉ Niamh crew help see people-smugglers charged Irish Examiner January 26, 2017 Sean O’Riordan
Lieutenant Commander Daniel Wall travelled in December to a court sitting in Sicily to provide evidence against five men charged with aiding and abetting murder.

Five arrested over migrant drowning incident Aug 7th 2015 TheJournal.ie/ AFP
5 people have been arrested by the Italian authorities in connection with the drowning of more than 200 migrants last Wednesday.

Three Libyans and two Algerians are accused of human trafficking and multiple homicide charges.

Joof is Gambian.

PQs on Operation pontus
PQs on Operation Sophia

For Written Answer on : 08/03/2018
Question Number(s): 4 Question Reference(s):11685/18
Department: Defence
______________________________________________


QUESTION

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the role played by the Naval Service in relation to the arrest of scafisti in the Mediterranean that is persons that are forced to drive boats and then arrested as human smugglers and in the event of there being an involvement to justify same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
REPLY

In July 2017, Government and Dáil approval was secured for the deployment of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force to serve as part of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy naval mission in the Mediterranean, Operation Sophia. Irish Naval vessel L.É. Niamh, subsequently deployed to the Mediterranean from October to December 2017.
In the course of its deployment in Operation Sophia last year, the crew of L.É. Niamh were engaged in both security tasks and in responding to Safety of Life at sea events (search and rescue) in the area of operation. In addition the core task of the mission including, gathering information on oil smuggling, patrols focusing on countering illegal arms trafficking, surveillance operations with the purpose of intercepting smugglers and people traffickers and monitoring the effectiveness of the Libyan Navy & Coastguard activity from a standoff distance the L.É. Niamh also undertook search and rescue operations.

All activities undertaken by the Naval Service as part of Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean adhere to and are conducted in accordance with international law, including human rights, humanitarian and refugee law and the principle of non-refoulement. The status of individuals rescued at sea is a matter for the authorities at the point of disembarkation in accordance with relevant international law and conventions on the trafficking in Human Beings.

Where people have been rescued by Operation Sophia, they are brought to a safe port or transferred to another vessel to be taken to a safe port. In that regard, the ports of embarkation for migrants rescued by Operation Sophia have been in Sicily.

Operation Sophia has so far contributed to the apprehension of 130 suspected smugglers and traffickers, removed approximately 520 boats from criminal organisations availability, contributed to almost 290 Safety of Life at Sea events and rescued over 42,400 migrants.

At the Government Meeting of 27 February last , I secured approval for the deployment in 2018 of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force to serve once again as part of Operation Sophia. Arrangements are currently being made for two Irish naval vessels to deploy consecutively under rotation for a period of approximately 32 weeks in total.

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For Written Answer on : 03/07/2018

Question Number(s): 39 Question Reference(s): 28842/18

Department: Defence

Asked by: Clare Daly T.D.

______________________________________________


QUESTION



To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the person (details supplied) that put the wristbands on persons while on the LE Niamh when the vessel participated in recuse operations in the Mediterranean Sea; and if hwill make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) The LÉ Niamh, an Irish naval vessel participating in Mediterranean rescue operations, rescued 367 refugees off the coast of Libya, on Aug. 5, 2015. This photo provided by Joof’s lawyer show that after the rescue, police investigators put plastic wristbands on refugees they believed to be the skippers, as well as the witnesses that identified them. A similar process happened when Joof was rescued and accused of driving. Photo: Irish Navy. https://theintercept.com/2017/09/16/italy-imprisons-refugees-who-were-forced-to-pilot-smuggling-boats-at-gunpoint/

REPLY





Irish Naval Service vessels were first deployed as part of 'Operation Pontus' in May 2015 to assist the Italian authorities with the migrant crisis. This was a humanitarian search and rescue mission conducted in accordance with a bilateral agreement with the Italian authorities and in accordance with the applicable international conventions on the rescue of persons in distress at sea.


In 2015, L.É. Niamh deployed from July to September and during its deployment, rescued a total of 4,127 migrants from unseaworthy vessels. I am advised by the Defence Forces that in the course of the event in question on 5 August 2015 involving L.É. Niamh, no wristbands were applied to persons rescued by personnel on L.É. Niamh. I am also advised that the Naval Service cannot stand over the provenance of the photograph used in the article in question and which is credited to 'Irish Navy'.


The deployment of Irish Naval Service vessels on a humanitarian search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean over the period 2015 to 2017 has been an important element in Ireland's response to the migration crises in the Mediterranean.


L.É. Samuel Beckett is currently deployed in the Mediterranean as part of the UN mandated EU naval security operation, 'Operation Sophia' and will be replaced in mid-July by L.É. James Joyce.


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_____________________________________________

For Written Answer on : 24/07/2018

Question Number(s): 54 Question Reference(s): 33145/18

Department: Defence

Asked by: Clare Daly T.D.

______________________________________________

QUESTION

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if agencies operate and or investigate on Naval Service ships while they are engaged in Operation Sophia.

REPLY

In July 2017, Government and Dáil approval was secured for the deployment of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force to serve as part of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy naval mission in the Mediterranean, Operation Sophia. An Irish Naval vessel was subsequently deployed to the Mediterranean from October to December 2017. Participation in Operation Sophia represented the first involvement by the Naval Service in a multilateral security operation under a United Nations mandate.

In February 2018, the Government approved a further Naval Service contribution to Operation Sophia. This will involve a total of 2 naval vessels deployed consecutively during the year for a period of up to 30 weeks in total. The deployment will run from mid April to end November.

In accordance with the mandate for the mission, the Naval Service can be involved in surveillance and intelligence gathering operations, search and rescue operations and disposal of migrant boats and Force Protection Operations.

Operation Sophia has a close relationship with other EU organisations and agencies involved in countering human smuggling and trafficking. Cooperation with such organisations and agencies is mainly around the area of the mutual exchange of information which increases Operation Sophia's overall operational awareness. These agencies are not operating or investigating on Irish Naval Service ships deployed in support of Operation Sophia.

Further News Report of August 5th 2015 rescue

On 5 August 2015, the Dublin Navy refused to intervene off the Libyan coast. The Coast Guard ordered the commander to organize the rescue, but it was late Lite Irlanda-Italia, così morirono 25 migranti La Stampa Riccardo Arena 12/05/2017

LE Niamh rescuers recall horrific scenes during bid to save migrants Herald.ie Alan O'Keeffe – 07 August 2015

I.S terror attack fears held up major Irish Navy rescue mission during incident which saw 200 die Owen Conlon The Sun 13th May 2017


Naval Service defends actions of patrol ship during migrant rescue
Irish Times, May 16, 2017 Lorna Siggins

Five men detained after presumed drowning of more than 200 migrants RTE.ie 7 Aug 2015

Migrant Crisis: Refugees charged up to €1,600 to board boat August 09, 2015 By Conall Ó Fátharta

Five men charged with murder of 200 migrants drowned in the Med Stephanie Kirchgaessner 7 Aug 2015

Two smugglers jailed for causing deaths of 14 migrants found locked in barge rescued by Irish Navy in Med Sea Owen Conlan The Sun 8th March 2017 Italian articles covering these member refer to them as scafisti

Coveney blasts 'inhumane' trafficking trade Irish Independent Philip Ryan August 8 2015

Searched for mention of scafisti and wristbands found Europe's Refugee Emergency Response - Update #13, 27 November – 3 December 2015
In Chios, UNHCR initiated the use of colour wristbands to track different arrival groups in order to enhance
registration management and timely provision of protection and assistance.

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