PSI calls for release of Tunisian Fishermen arrested by Italian authorities for saving lives on the Mediterranean

05 September 2018
Six Tunisian Fishermen, arrested off the coast of Italy, could face human trafficking charges after rescuing a stranded migrant boat with 14 people on board.

On the 1st of September, the Fishermen came across the boat while fishing off the coast of Lampedusa in international waters. After alerting the Italian coastguard, who took to long to mobilise, the Fishermen helped tow the boat towards Italy. The coastguard then intervened, boarding both vessels and detaining the migrants and fishermen.


Footage from a Frontex drone featured on the organisations twitter page, labels the fishermen as “suspected human traffickers” despite the video clearly showing them pulling in fishing nets before going to aide the stranded migrants.

Among those arrested is Chamseddine Bourassine, President of the Zarzis Fisherman’s Association. Last year, his Association was involved in the fight against the C Star: a ship piloted by members of Generation Identity which sought to ”sink the immigrant boats and bring the people back to Africa.”

In June 2018, Public Services International visited the Zarzis Fisherman’s Association and pledged to support their struggle for migrant rights. The Fishermen’s Association was recently involved in the fight against the C-Star: a ship piloted by extreme right Europeans with the goal of “sinking migrant ships and bringing the people back to Africa.” Among the projects initiated by the Fishermen is the Cemetery of the Unknown: the final resting place for over 400 refugees.

Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary said:

“As European leaders squabble over refugee numbers, Fishermen are forced to step in to stop the drowning in the Mediterranean. Instead of being lauded as heroes, they are locked in prison, their boats seized, their livelihoods at risk and their families uncertain of their future. Never has the brutality of Fortress Europe been so clear.”

“PSI will do all in our power to support these fishermen, whose heroic actions stand as an example for workers and unions the world over.”

Serena Sorrentino, General Secretary of PSI Italian affiliate CGIL Funzione Public called on authorities to release the fishermen:

"FPCGIL appreciates the support of everyone who saves lives on the Mediterranean sea. We believe that these fishermen were doing the same work done by rescue NGOs'  boats, who also face unfair persecution from politicians. We call on the Italian authorities to examine the evidence and free these Tunisian fishermen.”

A protest calling for the fishermen’s’ release will be held in Tunis on Thursday, in front of the Italian embassy.

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