The Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy has blasted far-right Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for toughening up penalties for migrant rescue boats that make unauthorised dockings at Italian ports.

Driving the news

As dpa reports, the Italian lower house voted Thursday to raise fines for rescue ships to up to one million euros.

The strict new version of Salvini’s “security decree”, first introduced in June, still needs upper house approval to become law.

Financial penalties for aid agency boats had been limited to between 10,000 and 50,000 euros.

Germany’s Sea-Watch and Italy’s Mediterranea have already received fines for shipping dozens of refugees to the island of Lampedusa.

Both ships were also impounded.

Salvini’s Interior Ministry said migrant arrivals had fallen by 81 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018 figures, to 3,418.

But migrant rescue ships account for only a fraction of those arrivals.


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Where it stands

In a statement translated into English on the JRS Europe website, the Italian arm of the JRS, the Centro Astalli, expressed “serious concern” over the new version of the “security decree”.

The Centro Astalli emphasised “that the people who violate the rules are not those who save lives at sea, but those who prevent or refuse to do so”.

“Migration management is a European topic that requires common commitment and responsibility. Italy should thus work towards common and shared solutions”, the Centro continued.

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For the record

“Rescue operations at sea would no longer be necessary if governments opened legal pathways of entering the EU, such as humanitarian channels, evacuation plans from Libya and countries at war”, explained Camillo Ripamonti, director of Centro Astalli.

“Allowing people to enter Europe safely would avoid unnecessary dangers and untold suffering to many people”, the priest affirmed.

“Safe and legal pathways would help to guarantee the reception and integration of migrants, as well as to seriously hampering human trafficking. Migrants represent humanity on a journey in search of justice and rights, even at the cost of their lives, they should not be instruments for political propaganda”.

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