Italy’s migrant rules ‘contradict’ international law, say charities

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Twenty charities on Thursday slammed new rules on rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean introduced by Italy’s right-wing government, saying they go against international law and will result in more deaths.

Under the new decree, which came into effect this week, charity vessels must head “without delay” to the Italian port assigned to them after each rescue, which aid groups say will limit the number of people they can help.

Such vessels often perform multiple rescues of people who get into trouble attempting the world’s most dangerous crossing, before heading back to shore.

“The Italian decree law contradicts international maritime, human rights and European law,” the aid organisations, including Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said in a joint statement.

“The decreased presence of rescue ships will in-evitably result in more people tragically drowning at sea,” they added.

Far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s new government has vowed to stop the charity vessels from performing what it considers to be a “ferry” service from North Africa.

But the order “to proceed immediately to a port, while other people are in distress at sea, contradicts the captain’s obligation to render immediate assis-tance to people in distress, as enshrined in” interna-tional maritime law, the aid groups said.

The problem was compounded by Rome’s recent move to frequently assign the ships’ ports which are further from search and rescue areas, they said.

“Both factors are designed to keep SAR (search and rescue) vessels out of the rescue area for pro-longed periods and reduce their ability to assist people in distress,” they said.—AFP