According to media reports yesterday, the Italian government has given the mandate to its Brussels ambassador to tell the European Commission that they are considering the possibility of blocking non-Italian-flagged boats carrying people who have been rescued at sea from landing at its ports.
This announcement comes after almost 11,000 people have been rescued in recent days and NGO boats have launched distress calls due to being over their capacities.
Italian MEP, Barbara Spinelli, comments: “Once again, the NGOs are under attack for saving lives in the Central Mediterranean migration route. Confronted with a large number of asylum seekers landing on its shores, the Italian government has notified the Commission of its intention to deny non-Italian-flagged boats that are not part of European missions (Frontex and Operation Sophia) permission to dock.”
“Feeling abandoned by the Union, the Italian authorities brandish a threat out of desperation, but their move is highly questionable and raises our deepest concern. Thousands of people who have been forced to seek safety are being used as bargaining chips in the negotiations with the Union, in total disregard of the prescriptions of the law of the sea and the European Convention on Human Rights. It’s a scandal that NGOs are criminalised at the moment when their boats are almost the only ones off the coasts of Libya that are saving lives.
“The Commission is promising extra money to the Italian government – together with the hugely controversial training of the Libyan coast guards – instead of revising the Dublin system immediately, providing proactive European search and rescue operations, and opening safe and legal routes for people escaping wars and failed states. We ask the Italian government and the European Union not to use the NGOs as the usual suspects in order to better cover up their failed asylum policies.”
German MEP, Cornelia Ernst, adds: “Instead of shameful threats playing with the lives of people who have faced torture, rape and forced labour in Libya, member states should look at the increased number of drownings in the Central Mediterranean where at least 2,108 people have died in 2017, and stop leaving NGO ships alone in their essential work to save lives at sea.”
“Now more than ever, it is time for a proactive European search and rescue operation carried out by member states that are willing to do so. It is also high time for member states to accept that the Dublin system is dead and move towards a true European system based on solidarity by abolishing the 'first country of entry' principle.”