Yesterday, August the 5th, the Italian Parliament passed the second leg of the decrees supported by Lega and Salvini’s Ministry on borders’ control, heavily criticized by our members in Italy and by Italian CSOs in general and not least by the UN Agency OHCHR. The latest piece of legislation approved is indeed an unprecedented act of criminalization of solidarity. It targets organisations and people rescuing migrants at sea and it breaches international maritime law on rescue.
We support and will continue supporting ARCI, CGIL, CISL and UIL in their campaigns and actions to oppose the specious use of migration to reach political or party-related goals. As ARCI put it Tragedies at sea are still many and we should not expect migrations flows to decrease in the midst of global instability and its repercussion on millions of people. The EU and Italy keep dodging the real questions around migration and treating it as an emergency when in fact it is a structural feature of our times. It remains a duty to save human lives and contribute to their reception in the countries they reach.
Instead of fostering the cooperation between the different social actors involved in the rescue, reception and integration of migrants – including CSOs – the Italian government insists on pushing back human beings towards war zones breaching any principle in international law, besides its integrity.
The UNHCR also has shown its concern for the new measures impacting rescue at sea in the Central Mediterranean
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is concerned about last night’s decision by the Italian Parliament to convert into law a security decree that imposes more severe penalties on boats and people conducting search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.
Under changes approved by Parliament, fines for private vessels that undertake rescue of persons and do not respect the ban on entry into territorial waters have risen to a maximum of €1 million. In addition, vessels will now be automatically impounded.
UNHCR reiterates its concern that imposing financial or other penalties on shipmasters could deter or impede sea rescue activities by private vessels at a time when European states have largely withdrawn from rescue efforts in the Central Mediterranean. NGOs play an invaluable role in saving the lives of refugees and migrants attempting the dangerous sea crossing to Europe. The commitment and humanity that motivates their activities should not be criminalised or stigmatised.
Likewise, NGO and commercial vessels must not be requested to transfer rescued people to the Libyan Coast Guard, or directed to disembark them in Libya. The extremely volatile security situation, ongoing conflict, widespread reports of human rights violations and routine use of arbitrary detention for people disembarked back to Libya underline the fact that it is not a viable place of safety.