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Trapani enquiry: Case against Save the Children staff dismissed 

TRAPANI, Italy, 19 April 2024 – The decision by an Italian court to dismiss a case against charities and their staff members running search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean in 2016 and 2017 is one step towards affirming that our organisation was operating legally to save lives, Save the Children said.

Commenting on the ruling of the Judge for the Preliminary Hearing of the Court of Trapani to dismiss one of the cases against a Save the Children team leader of the humanitarian search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean:

"In the years in which the search and rescue mission in the Central Mediterranean was active, 2016 and 2017, Save the Children rescued almost 10,000 people who were at risk of drowning at sea. Among them were some 1,500 children, many of whom were separated from their families. We are very pleased with the outcome of the preliminary hearing and thank all our supporters who, even during these years, have continued to believe in the values of our organisation", said Daniela Fatarella, CEO of Save the Children Italy.

Throughout the proceedings, Save the Children firmly rejected any allegations of illegal activities in its life-saving operations, maintaining that it was responding to its humanitarian mandate and that its search and rescue activities were carried out in compliance with applicable law, and under co-ordination of the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (IMRCC) and other appropriate authorities.  Save the Children cooperated fully with the relevant proceedings, while continuing to work throughout Europe, including in Italy to support migrant children, and expressed full confidence that the Italian judiciary would determine that no offences had been committed.

A court in Trapani on 19 April 2024 dismissed the Trapani Prosecutor’s case against one of Save the Children’s team leaders involved in search and rescue operations on board the ship Vos Hestia.

Ms. Jean-Paule Castagno – who, together with Mr. Andrea Alfonso Stigliano of the law firm Orrick in Milan, represented Save the Children’s team leader – also commented on the ruling, saying, “The outcome of this preliminary hearing is the result of years of hard work, during which Save the Children carried out a  detailed defence exercise, collecting and bringing to the attention of the Judge key evidence that did not emerge during the investigation.  This evidence was ultimately decisive in convincing the Prosecutor’s Office to re-evaluate its stance to the point of requesting dismissal of the case.”

Today more than ever, Save the Children's thoughts go out to all the people who continue to lose their lives crossing the central Mediterranean: in the last 10 years, that is an average of more than 6 people per day[1], dead or missing, chasing the hope of a better future. It is necessary to put people and their rescue back at the centre of national and European migration policies. Save the Children calls for a shared responsibility of Member States and European institutions, with the creation of a structured and coordinated search and rescue system in the Mediterranean, the opening of regular and safe channels for access to Europe and the creation of new mechanisms for family reunification, humanitarian corridors and evacuation for people escaping.


 [1] The figure was derived by dividing the total number of people who died in the central Mediterranean over 10 years by the number of years and then the number of days in each year. Source IOM

With further enquiries please contact: Dan Stewart, d.stewart@savethechildren.org.uk / +44 (0)20 3763 0119 or out of hours: media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44(0)7831 650409.