The Italian government has ordered the seizure of the NGO vessel Aquarius amid an investigation into potential illegal dumping of hazardous waste.
The ship is used by non-governmental organizations, primarily Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee, to 'rescue' migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Europe, and bring them the rest of the way.
Aquarius is currently docked in Marseille, France, where Italian authorities have instructed it should be held.
"The case regards the alleged dumping of dangerous and potentially infectious refuse, including medical materials, without the waste being separated, as if it were ordinary household waste," ANSA reports. "Prosecutors suspect that 24,000 kilos of waste were dumped in this way on 44 different occasions."
"In total, 14 people are under investigation in the probe conducted by state and finance police and coordinated by Catania prosecutors, sources said. The authorities also requested the seizure of 460,000 euros."
Prosecutors say medical workers have documented cases of scabies, meningitis, tuberculosis, AIDS and syphilis in migrants arriving in Italy from Africa, but "the presence of hazardous medical waste has never been declared" in connection with the dumping incidents, which allegedly took place in at least 11 Italian ports.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has spearheaded efforts to constrict the operations of NGOs known for aiding thousands of migrants in gaining access to Italy and Europe, hailed the decision.
"Seized the ship Aquarius," Salvini tweeted. "I did well to block the ships of NGOs, I stopped not only the trafficking of illegal immigrants but, from what emerges, also that of toxic waste."
Sequestrata la nave #Aquarius.— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) November 20, 2018
Ho fatto bene a bloccare le navi delle ONG, ho fermato non solo il traffico di immigrati clandestini ma, da quanto emerge, anche quello di rifiuti tossici.#portichiusi pic.twitter.com/79GPrejO4h
Italian journalist Alessandra Bocchi, who has covered the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean at length, also offered praise for her government's decision.
"The Aquarius case shows those who were denouncing the illegal trafficking of NGOs were correct, and those who saw them as innocent humanitarians were being naive," Bocchi told Infowars Europe. "NGOs weren’t just trafficking human beings, but toxic waste, too.”
(PHOTO: Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/Getty Images)