Sea rescue operations faced with high penalties for saving peoples’ lives in Italy
In June 2019 the Italian government issued a new security decree that grants more power to the Minister of Interior on immigration issues and could endanger the work of NGO rescue missions in the Mediterranean. The decree grants power to the Minister to deny access to Italian territorial waters to vessels that its considers "a risk to security or public order." Failure to respect that ban could entail fines of up to 50,000 Euros.
The UN Refugee Agency issued a statement calling "the Italian Government to reconsider the decree and for Parliament to amend it with a focus on refugee protection and saving lives at its core."
Civil society organisations condemned the decree and promise to continue their vital rescue and humanitarian work:
“We won’t stop to defend human life at sea,” said Sea Watch
The transfer of 70 Roma people to a state-run centre in the Torre Maura neighbourhood in Rome triggered protests of the far-right and neo-fascist groups Casa Pound and Forza Nuova in April 2019. According to reports, protestors set up barricades with the aim of preventing access to the house, set fire to cars and bins and destroyed food meant for the community.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini from the far-right Lega Party condemned the violence but reinforced his pledge to clear all Roma camps in Italy by the end of his mandate.
With the government of the far-right Lega and the Five Star Movement, Italy has seen a drastic turn to racially-motivated and xenophobic events. The Italian Roma community of about 130,000 are socially excluded, face discrimination and live mostly in poverty.
“NGOs play an invaluable role in saving the lives of refugees and migrants attempting the dangerous sea crossing to Europe. Their commitment and humanity should not be criminalized or stigmatized.”--@yaxle. @Refugees & @UNmigration brief media on Italy migrant rescue development. pic.twitter.com/MfCzoOSfu8— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva) August 6, 2019