Rome (HAN) August 20th, 2017 – Public Diplomacy & Regional stability.
According to Nomia Iqbal, BBC Newsday, Rome, “Eritrean priest in Italy denies ‘people smuggling.”
A Catholic priest under investigation for people smuggling has told the BBC that politicians are trying to criminalise people helping refugees.
Don Mussie Zerai has lived in Italy for more than 25 years, since fleeing Eritrea as a teenager.
He says he regularly receives calls from distressed migrants making the crossing from Africa to Italy.
Mr Zerai was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for helping save lives by simply answering his phone.
But the prosecutor’s office in the Sicilian town of Trapani is investigating him, along with others, over allegations of aiding and abetting illegal immigration.
He denies the allegation.
“When I receive a distress call [from people coming to Europe] I collect information and I pass the information to the Italian coastguard (which takes the lead in co-ordinating rescues) so the authorities can intervene,” he told BBC Newsday.
Mr Zerai, 40, says he sends the same information to various non-governmental organisations, including Medecins Sans Frontieres and Migrant Offshore Aid Station.
But he denies he has been working with German NGO Jugend Rettet, which is accused of having direct contact with traffickers in Libya. BBC Rome
Pic: Father Abba Mussie Zerai