It has emerged that one of Pope Francis’s special nominees to the Synod on Synodality, Luca Casarini, is under investigation in Sicily. The case centres on an Italian non-governmental organization called “Mediterranea,” which Casarini runs. Casarini is a former leader in the “no-global” movement and a leftist activist; in October he took part in the Synod on Synodality at the Pope’s personal invitation.
Founded in 2018, Mediterranea operates the lone private rescue ship involved in saving migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea flying the Italian flag, a vessel called the Mare Jonio. In the past five years, it’s carried out thirteen missions and is credited with saving roughly 2,000 victims of shipwrecks.
Currently, Casarini and five other individuals associated with Mediterranea are under investigation in Sicily for an incident in 2020 in which the Mare Jonio, without permission from local authorities, disembarked 27 migrants in a Sicilian port whom it had taken on board from a Danish supply ship which had rescued them at sea 37 days before.
The Danish company that owned the ship, Maersk, later paid Mediterranea roughly $135,000, in what the company described as a donation but which prosecutors suspect was a payoff for violating Italian immigration laws. A judge is expected to rule Dec. 6 as to whether the case should go to trial.
Mediterranea and Casarini enjoy the strong support of Pope Francis, for whom the fate of migrants and refugees attempting to make their way across the Mediterranean is a signature cause. He’s referred to the sea as the “largest cemetery in Europe” due to the large number of people who die every year trying to make the crossing; according to the UN refugee agency, more than 2,500 have perished this year alone.
While saving lives unquestionably is a worthy cause, there have been accusations that the group’s motives aren’t entirely altruistic.
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