HomeMiddle EastItaly detains two NGO boats for defying new immigrant rescue law

Italy detains two NGO boats for defying new immigrant rescue law

The rescue ships Sea-Eye 4 and Mare*Go have been blocked for 20 days for flaunting Italian legislation that they call “unfair”.

The Italian Coast Guard has detained two non-governmental organization vessels operating in the Mediterranean Sea, after they were found to be in breach of a new law preventing the boats deployed to rescue migrants from carrying out multiple operations in a row.

A 20-day detention was imposed on the German rescue ships Sea-Eye 4 and Mare*Go on Friday night, the organizations Sea-Eye and Sea-Watch that operate the ships said.

The law passed in Italy on February 24 prevents rescue boats from carrying out multiple rescues in a row. According to a decree named after Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, rescue vessels must request to be assigned a port and sail to it immediately after each rescue.

NGOs say the move is aimed at curbing arrivals as they are prohibited from carrying out multiple missions and often must travel to faraway ports, increasing operational costs and reducing the time for rescues.

They also maintain that the law contravenes international law, according to which it is a duty to rescue people in danger at sea.

Sea-Eye 4 was being detained for disobeying an “unfair law meant to criminalize solidarity,” Giorgia Linardi, a spokeswoman for Sea-Watch in Italy, tweeted on Saturday.

‘Criminalizing maritime salvage’

Sea-Eye 4 was detained after rescuing 17 people in the Libyan search and rescue area and operating a second consecutive rescue in the Malta area shortly thereafter, without first proceeding to the assigned port of Ortona, in the central Abruzzo region. .

The NGO said the vessel later responded to a distress call from a ship with more than 400 people on board in the Maltese area and decided to turn back as no government authority had confirmed the coordination of the emergency.

Italian authorities told Il Giornale newspaper that the Sea-Eye 4 violated the order to reach Ortona and sailed towards the ship, which was already being monitored by the Coast Guard.

Gorden Isler, president of Sea-Eye, said in the statement that the distressed ship eventually reached the Italian search and rescue zone on its own, and that its passengers were only rescued by the Italian Coast Guard shortly before reaching Sicily. .

“It is therefore incorrect for the Italian Coast Guard to claim that a patrol boat was already on its way. People first had to reach the Italian search and rescue zone by their own means to receive help there, ”he said.

“Italy’s new strategy is perfidious and transparent. Long voyages to assigned and distant ports will always mean we have to decide on the way there whether to respond to any more incoming distress calls,” Isler said.

He added that the law creates the “public impression that our action is illegal,” which was “another reprehensible attempt to criminalize sea rescue… to justify increasingly brutal state action.”

‘Post-fascist government’

On Friday, the Mare*Go, a four-meter-long pleasure boat built in 1917 on its first mission, contacted Italian authorities after rescuing 36 people. She warned them that she would not be able to cover the distance to reach the assigned port of Trapani, on the west coast of Sicily.

Officials from the Italian Coast Guard and the European border agency Frontex were waiting for the ship when it entered the port of Lampedusa just before midnight.

“This current new law is another tool to allow more people on the move to drown at sea,” the organization said in a statement, calling out the prime minister’s far-right government. Giorgia Meloni “post-fascist”.

The anti-migrant Italia Liga party, led by Matteo Salvini, told Il Giornale that it was satisfied with the way Italian law had been applied. “Do foreign NGOs not respect Italian laws? A heavy fine and the detention of the vessel, ”he said.

“The rules and borders must be respected, in Italy as in the whole world.”

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