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Italy: Parliamentary vote to further punish migrant sea rescue efforts condemned

© Carlos Gil / Getty Images

Chamber of Deputies approves legislation which could see search-and-rescue NGOs fined or have vessels impounded 

Vote comes amid news of major shipwreck off Libyan coast, with at least 73 people still missing

This new legislation risks resulting in more deaths at sea’ - Matteo de Bellis

In response to a vote in the Italian parliament today approving new measures that could see charities which attempt to rescue migrants at sea being fined or having their vessels impounded, Matteo de Bellis, Amnesty International’s Migration Researcher, said:

“These measures are clearly designed to hinder NGOs undertaking life-saving search-and-rescue missions in the central Mediterranean.

“This is part of an effort to ensure that as many people as possible are instead intercepted by Libyan coastguards and returned to Libya where they face arbitrary detention and torture.

“This new legislation risks resulting in more deaths at sea. It will inevitably lead to increased suffering for shipwreck survivors, and in further criminalisation of the legitimate work of human rights defenders.”

Follow-up vote due by 2 March

Earlier today, the Italian Chamber of Deputies approved legislation incorporating Decree-Law N.1 issued on 2 January previously adopted by the Italian government - into ordinary legislation. The legislation will now move to the Senate, which is expected to vote by 2 March.

A number of prominent experts - including the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović, and the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor - have criticised the new legislation and the “distant ports” practice, which could be at variance with Italy’s obligations under international law and risk depriving people in distress at sea of life-saving assistance from rescue NGOs. Amnesty’s analysis of the two measures is available here, and recommendations on how to approach the situation of refugees and migrants in the central Mediterranean is available here.

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