Italy’s far-right government targets NGOs rescuing migrants at sea
A new 'code of conduct' for humanitarian ships goes into force, establishing sanctions ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 euros for the captain if guidelines are not followed.
During the summer election campaign, Giorgia Meloni, the head of the far-right Italian party Fratelli d'Italia, reintroduced the concept of a naval blockade to prevent vessels from intervening at sea to rescue migrants. Meloni's far-right government, which is now in power, has declared war on NGOs involved in rescuing migrants. A new "code of conduct" for humanitarian ships went into effect as a decree on January 3.
This text's new provisions include the discontinuation of "simultaneous" rescue efforts. Once an Italian port of disembarkation has been given to a vessel, it must be reached as soon as possible in order to finish the rescue mission.
As the 25th of September election nears in #Italy, the far-right is focusing its campaign on immigrants.— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) September 22, 2022
Will Italy submit to the far-right with its neo-fascist roots? pic.twitter.com/eZuMXx7Gxn
It will now be illegal for a boat that has just picked up refugees to shift its route toward another boat in difficulty before reaching land unless the Italian authorities make a specific request.
In essence, the new Interior Ministry regulation ratifies a move that poses a clear threat to international law and the international conventions to which Italy claims to be a signatory.
"Rather than assigning us a clear role in saving lives at sea, this decree attempts to limit our scope of action without proposing any alternative solution," said Juan Matias Gil, head of sea rescue operations for Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
"We can expect a decrease in our rescue operation capacities, and more deaths to come."
Last month, Italy's new government under the far-right leader, Georgia Meloni, refused to allow a Norwegian-flagged NGO ship with 234 migrants on board rescued from the Mediterranean to dock.