Migrant Crisis: Italy’s New Bill to Penalise NGOs for Rescuing Migrants

Written by | Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

The Italian government has agreed on a new security administration that could fine non-governmental organisation’s rescue boats bringing migrants to Italy without permission for up to €50,000. Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president signed a decree on security and immigration proposed by Matteo Salvini, the far-right interior minister, and leader of the Northern League party. The draft has also been labelled as a “declaration of war against the NGOs who are saving lives at sea” because it aims to end rescue missions in in the Central Mediterranean region.

“We want certain behaviour to be a bit more transparent on the part of the NGOs too, I don’t want to lay it on but we are asking for greater transparency,’’ commented Giuseppe Conte, the prime minister. At the same time, the decreasing numbers of NGO’s rescue ships in combination with Libya’s protracting conflict could increase the risk of refugees becoming shipwrecked and dying at sea, with around 1150 migrants having died last year in an attempt to migrate from Libya to Italy.

“The new decree is threatening legal principles and the duty of saving lives,” stated Claudia Lodesani, president of the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Italy. “It is like fining ambulances for carrying patients to the hospital.” The UN also urged the Italian government to reconsider the decree, asking to put the protection of refugees human lives at the center. “Libya is not a safe country,” said Giorgia Linardi, a spokeswoman for Sea-Watch in Italy, “Forcibly taking rescued people back to a war-torn country, having them imprisoned and tortured, is a crime that we will never commit.”

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