Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, has pledged to clamp down on the arrival of migrants rescued from the Mediterranean into its ports, as new laws come into play. Two German rescue boats, including Sea-Eye 4, have been notified by the Italian Coast Guard they will be detained for 20 days for breaking the new laws, which require ships to proceed directly to port after each rescue. The legislation also lists fines of up to $50,000 for disobeying the rules. Instead, Sea-Eye 4 reportedly conducted additional rescues before proceeding directly to the port of Ortona in central Italy, violating various new laws. While trying to rescue more people from a sailboat with 32 people aboard, the boat with 400 people eventually drifted into the Italian zone, and with the Coast Guard responding, Sea-Eye 4 proceeded to Ortona.
MareGo, a smaller vessel, also came under scrutiny after it rescued 36 migrants in the central Mediterranean. They were ordered by Italian authorities to proceed to the Sicilian port of Trapani. However, the NGO stated that the vessel did not have the necessary equipment to provide adequate care for the journey, which would have taken 32 hours, and disregarded the order instead. MareGo was blocked for 20 days and received a fine of €3,333 ($3,500) for proceeding to an unauthorized port and disregarding instructions.
Critics of the new laws are pointing out that despite Italy’s efforts, the arrival of migrants from the Mediterranean appears to be increasing, with reported cases of 50,400 so far this year, compared to 19,700 in the same period of 2022. The real objective behind the laws is seen by some critics, such as the NGO fleet, as an attempt to hinder and prevent their rescue activities.
The MV Louise Michel, a rescue ship funded by British street artist Banksy, and the Geo Barents, a ship linked with Doctors Without Borders, also fell afoul of the new laws in March.
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