Italy’s far-right government has approved measures to fine charities that rescue migrants at sea and confiscate their ships if they break a new, tougher set of rules – a move that one campaign group says could be life-threatening.

A cabinet ruling, approved late Wednesday night and seen by Reuters, said the ships should request port and sail to it “without delay” after being rescued, rather than remain at sea looking for other migrant ships in distress. .

Currently, charitable or non-governmental organization (NGO) missions in the central Mediterranean typically last several days, with charity boats carrying out various rescue missions and often carrying hundreds of people.

NGO ships must also inform those on board that they can apply for international protection anywhere in the European Union, the decree says.

Captains who violate these rules can be fined up to 50,000 euros ($53,175), and repeated violations can result in the ship being confiscated.

Since taking office in October, the government of Georgia Premier Meloni has targeted maritime rescue charities, accusing them of facilitating the work of traffickers amid a surge in arrivals.

Charities deny the allegations.

Riccardo Gatti, head of the Médecins Sans Frontières rescue ship, told la Repubblica on Thursday that the decree is part of a strategy that “increases the risk of death for thousands of people.”

Rules that make multiple rescue operations more difficult may violate international conventions and are “ethically unacceptable,” he said.

About 102,000 migrants landed in Italy in 2022, according to the Ministry of the Interior, compared to about 66,500 in the same period last year, 34,000 in 2021 and a peak of over 181,000 in 2016.

A document from Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi’s office says that only about 10% of those who arrived in Italy in 2022 were brought ashore in NGO boats.

However, it also states that these boats acted as a “pull factor” for those making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean from Libya. NGOs say data shows their presence at sea does not encourage migrants to leave.

The question of how to deal with immigration in a largely borderless European Union has been a source of tension for years. Italy and Spain, where most ships arrive, have long said that EU allies should take in more migrants arriving on their shores.

The issue sparked a diplomatic row between Italy and France in November after Rome refused to let a charity ship carrying about 200 people into its ports and the ship ended up sailing for France.

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Eddie Hudson is an Entertainment News Reporter and Fashion Stylist. Graduated with a degree in Television Production from Howard University. He is an award-winning entertainment news reporter at 24PalNews and credits his upbringing and passion for helping others as the foundation for his success.

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