The Jesuit Refugee Service centre in Italy, the Centro Astalli, has expressed “serious concern” over the approval in Italy of a tough new “security decree” that could see migrant rescue ships in the Mediterranean confiscated and its operators fined up to one million euros.

Driving the news

As The Independent reports, the Italian Senate passed the controversial new law Monday by a margin 160-57.

Under the legislation, also known as the “security decree bis” and sponsored by far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, rescue boats that bring stranded refugees to Italian ports without permission could face financial penalties of between 150,000 and one million euros.

Rescue boat captains could also be arrested and have their vessels confiscated.

The new law also provides for harsh penalties for demonstrators and those who threaten public officials.

Salvini celebrated the Senate vote on Twitter, writing that “the security decree, with more powers to police forces, more border checks and more men to arrest mafiosi, is law”.

“I thank you, Italians, and the Blessed Virgin Mary”, Salvini added.

But the new security decree has come under harsh criticism from NGOs in Italy and beyond.


Italian Jesuits warn Salvini migrants “should not be instruments for political propaganda”

The intrigue

“Imposing financial or other penalties on shipmasters could deter or impede sea rescue activities by private vessels at a time when European states have largely withdrawn from rescue efforts in the Central Mediterranean”, the UN refugee agency warned in a statement.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Italy said the law “will inflict useless suffering … putting at risk the lives of vulnerable people”.

“Clearly, the sole intention of this security decree is to intimidate those showing solidarity with migrants”, Maurice Stierl, a member of the refugee hotline Alarm Phone told The Independent.

A spokesperson for the rescue charity Sea-Watch, Haidi Sadik, added that Salvini’s security decree “is an abuse of power that creates a state-led culture of defiance of international maritime laws and conventions that protect human life at sea”.

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Go deeper

The Centro Astalli added its voice to this chorus of disapproval, calling the attempts to hinder or prevent private rescue efforts in the Mediterranean “particularly alarming”.

“Leaving migrants in Libya or letting them die in the Mediterranean is not only inhumane, but also certainly not a deterrent for those who are forced to flee their countries because of wars, persecution or serious needs”, the Centro Astalli warned in a statement Tuesday.

“In the absence of legal alternatives to reach safety, these people will not stop in front of the dangers of the sea or of the Libyan detention centres”, the Centro added.

The Italian Jesuit Refugee Service insisted that “managing migration is a European issue that requires common commitment and assumption of responsibility to achieve shared solutions that respect human life and dignity”.

See too:

Church orgs want end to “criminalisation of solidarity” after “year’s worst Mediterranean tragedy”

For the record

“With the approval of the Security Decree bis, we write a dark page of the democratic history of Italy”, lamented Centro Astalli president Camillo Ripamonti.

“While skilfully seeding fear and hatred to distract the public, the Security Decree strikes at the heart of our constitution, of our history, of our principles of civilization with astonishing simplicity”, the priest denounced.

He added that the law stomps “upon international conventions and human rights with anti-solidarity demagogic norms”.

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