Italy proposes to fine boats that bring rescued migrants to its ports

Human rights experts and aid agencies have condemned a draft decree proposed by Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, to impose a fine on ships that rescue migrants at sea. If passed, NGO rescue boats could be fined up to EUR 5,500 for each migrant they bring on to Italian soil.

United Nations human rights experts said in a statement that such a law would seriously undermine the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers.

“The draft text of the security decree misinterprets the navigation code and the very basis of the international law applicable to the search and rescue,” Giorgia Linardi of Sea-Watch said. “The lives of people are reduced to a fine: a fine that actually goes to punish what is a moral and legal duty and a human act of solidarity.”

Salvini’s draft specifies that it is motivated by “extraordinary necessity and urgency” to fight “elusive practices” used to decide on where to disembark recued migrants. Commercial boats that rescue migrants could also have their licences revoked or suspended for up to a year.

It further argues that Libyan ports are “able to provide migrants with adequate logistical and medical assistance.” However, UN experts said Libyan coastguards regularly commit human rights violations. The Libyan coastguard has also halted operations due to escalating civil conflict.

UN experts said Italian authorities have not properly considered several international norms, such as article 98 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, on the duty to help any person in danger at sea. Rescue NGOs also said the proposed decree contradicts laws and norms on saving lives at sea.

“The new decree is threatening legal principles and the duty of saving lives,” said Claudia Lodesani, president of MSF Italy. “It is like fining ambulances for carrying patients to the hospital.”

TMP – 29/05/2019

Photo credit: Sea Watch

Photo caption: The Sea Watch 3 is the only rescue ship still operating in the Mediterranean.