Italy could again prohibit access to its coasts to NGO boats with migrants

First modification:

Italian media reported on Tuesday, October 25, that the new far-right government in charge of the country is preparing directives against humanitarian aid groups for migrants, to prevent them from accessing Italian ports.

In Italy, the new Minister of the Interior, Matteo Piantedosi, signed a directive on Tuesday notifying port authorities and other relevant authorities in the country that the SOS Méditerranée rescue ship Ocean Viking and the SOS Humanity 1 ship had failed to comply with European standards, by rescuing 326 migrants last Monday and Tuesday.

According to local media, the minister also said that the rescue ships acted without receiving instructions from the responsible authorities in the search and rescue areas in question, ie Libya and Malta.

The newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that the ministry was therefore considering blocking access to Italian waters for these ships, which would mark a return to the anti-migration policies already carried out by former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini in 2018 and 2019.

The new Italian Prime Minister, Georgia Meloni, presented last week his government and assured that his administration will work to “stop illegal exits” from Africa to the Peninsula and to “break human trafficking” in the Mediterranean.

The current Minister of the Interior, Piantedosi, had already been Salvini’s chief of staff, who returns to the post of deputy prime minister.

The director of SOS Méditerranée told Radio 24 that his NGO had not been officially informed of the new directive, and denied that the rescue ship had acted against the rules.

“We have been accused of carrying out an autonomous rescue without informing the authorities, and that is not true,” Alessandro Porro told Radio 24.

“The authorities, especially those in Italy, know very well what we do, where we do it and they are kept informed step by step. Our procedure is as follows: as soon as we identify a boat in difficulty, we inform the competent authorities, either in Italy, Malta, Libya or in our country, Norway”.

Italy: a zone of migratory tension in the Mediterranean

Since 2020, Italy has received almost 56% of the global flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. The proportion was only 9.2% in 2019.

The main reason for the increase in migrant arrivals is in Libya. By the mid-2010s, Rome had succeeded in stemming the flow of migrants thanks to agreements signed with militias based in western Libya, the main embarkation area to reach Italy.

The Europeans have also released funds and equipment to the Libyan coastguard so that they can intercept the departures, which happened at the cost of serious human rights violations.

However, the current institutional chaos in the North African country seems to have eroded the agreements with Italy and Europe. Proof of this, the revival of arrivals to Italy from Libya has gone from 13,139 in 2020 to 30,520 in 2021.

The trend continues to accelerate as, in the first six months of 2022, 3,442 migrants arrived each month on Italian shores from Libya, compared to 2,543 in 2021.

Efe, AP, local media

Italy could again prohibit access to its coasts to NGO boats with migrants