Italy imposes new obstacles to NGOs that rescue migrants at sea: more fines and may confiscate their boats

The Italian government, led by the far-right Giorgia Meloni, approved on Wednesday night a decree law by which it will be able to fine and confiscate the NGO boats carrying out rescues in the Mediterranean and that do not comply with current legislation.

The text published after the meeting of the Council of Ministers advanced that Italy will apply a regime of administrative sanctions, instead of criminal ones, and may also proceed to “the administrative detention of the ship (against which appeal is admitted) and, in case of recidivism of the prohibited conduct, its confiscation, preceded by the precautionary embargo”.

Although the official text has not stipulated the amount of the fines, a draft published by the local media calculates the penalty at 50,000 euros for ships and up to 10,000 euros for the captain and the owner of the ship if they do not provide the information required by the national authorities.

The executive assured that the norm will only be applied in cases of violation of territorial limits or prohibition of transit, but the situations stipulated in the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention for the safety of people recovered at sea will be respected.

Another of the advanced provisions in the drafts, which would force ships to request assignment in a port after carrying out the first rescue and without being able to board more migrants, was not specified in the decree approved today.

This week, the ship Ocean Viking of the SOS Méditerranée organization, docked in Livorno (central Italy), after rescuing 113 migrants, which was part of the new strategy of the Italian Government that authorizes docking far from the rescue zone for which takes several days to arrive and then return to the rescue.

These are the first rescues of NGO boats after the clash that the Italian government had with some of them at the beginning of November by preventing for days the disembarkation of the people it had rescued by applying its new anti-immigration policy of letting only to vulnerable migrants.

The new rule, devised by the Vice President and Minister of Infrastructure, Matteo Salvini, promoter of the Italian policy of “closed ports” to humanitarian NGOs, allowed only immigrants who after a medical evaluation show that they are in a situation of danger to get off the ship. vulnerability.

In this context, the Ocean Viking requested permission to dock in France with 234 migrants after being rejected by the Italian port authorities, which triggered a diplomatic conflict.

Italy imposes new obstacles to NGOs that rescue migrants at sea: more fines and may confiscate their boats