Italian prosecutors are investigating leading humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), a legal source said on Saturday, over its role in rescuing migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
Italian police on Wednesday seized a migrant rescue boat operated by German organization Jugend Rettet on suspicion of aiding illegal immigration.
A legal source now says that MSF is also part of the investigation over the alleged rescue of migrants carried out just off the Libyan coast when there was no immediate threat to their safety.
MSF said in a statement it had not been notified of the inquiry and that it stood ready to cooperate with prosecutors since similar accusations first surfaced in the press months ago.
“We hope any doubts can be dispelled soon to end this trickling of accusations that poisons the atmosphere in an ever gloomier situation,” it said.
Italy is under pressure to manage new arrivals because some 600,000 migrants have reached it by sea from North Africa since 2014. Immigration has become a potent political issue ahead of elections in spring 2018.
Rome has asked eight NGOs to sign a code of conduct for the southern Mediterranean, including a demand that they carry an armed policemen on board their boats.
Only four aid groups have agreed to it.