Salvini’s migrant bill dismissed as illegal 

Salvini’s migrant bill dismissed as illegal 

Italy’s firebrand interior minister Matteo Salvini has proposed a bill to fine those who rescue migrants at sea up to €5,500 for every saved person.

The bill present crews with fines of between €3,500 and €5,500 for each “foreigner” they deliver to Italy.

Italian vessels transporting rescued passengers could have their licences revoked or suspended.

Salvini has today (Wednesday) sent Italian bonds tumbling for a third day, pushing German yields to the lowest level since 2016, amid concerns of a renewed budgetary battle. 

He is disputing Brussels’ demands for Italy to curb its public spending. 

Attacking migrants is another means for Salvini to build his populist brand ahead of the May 26 European election. 

“It’s like fining ambulances for bringing patients to a hospital,” said Claudia Lodesani of Medecins Sans Frontieres in Italy.

“The new decree from the Italian government is threatening legal principles and the duty of saving lives at sea.”

Others said the deputy prime minister bill breached international maritime conventions.

“We don’t expect it to become any kind of piece of enforceable legislation,” said Frederic Penard, director of operations at SOS Mediterranee, which used to run the Aquarius rescue boat (pictured) with MSF.

“Captains doing rescue at sea do not have a choice: it is an obligation,” he said in reference to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982.

Riccardo Gatti, head of Open Arms, said he was “neither alarmed nor worried” about the Lega leader’s proposed legislation.

“It would be a defeat of search and rescue missions and EU values,” he told the media. “But we have learned that Salvini’s objective is often to make some noise with some huge declarations that turn out to be false after some time.”

The bill includes provisions to give Salvini some powers held by a Five Star minister. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement shares power in the populist coalition. 

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported that around 17,000 migrants had reached Europe via the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2019, compared with around 32,000 during the same period last year.

But the number of deaths has shot up, especially in the central Mediterranean.

Around 307 migrants have gone missing or died trying to reach Italy or Malta this year. It means one in eight has died, compared with one in 50 last year.

“It is clear that crossing the Mediterranean is now more dangerous than ever,” IOM spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo tweeted. “And saving lives at sea (and bringing migrants to a safe port, not Libya) should be the number-one priority.”

 

 

The Aquarius. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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