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22 Charities Accuse Italian Government Of Obstructing Their Rescue Missions

22.02.2024 22:57

Charities say new law contributes to rise in migrant deaths in Central Mediterranean.

Twenty-two charities accused the Italian government Thursday of deliberately obstructing their rescue missions at sea which has contributed to a rise in migrant deaths.

"In light of the increasing death toll in the Central Mediterranean since early 2023, coinciding with the adoption of a new law by Italian authorities and the systematic assignment of distant ports to humanitarian rescue ships, we call on the Italian government to bring an immediate halt to the obstruction of our lifesaving activities at sea," the NGOs said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry declined to comment.

Data from the International Organization for Migration showed more than 2,600 migrants died or went missing while attempting the crossing from northern Africa to Italy. Last year was the deadliest since 2017.

The charities, including Doctors Without Borders and OpenArms and Emergency, said during the past year they have repeatedly warned about the risk of mounting deaths on the Central Mediterranean route following the implementation of a new law.

"This law is a clear strategy by authorities to reduce the presence of NGO ships at sea, to limit their capacity to carry out rescues, and to prevent arrivals on Italian shores at all costs," said the charities.

They criticized the law because they said, among other rules, NGO rescue ships should head immediately to a port following a rescue, forcing them to ignore boats in distress in the area.​​​​​​​

"In many cases, we must choose between complying with the Italian regulation while knowing we might leave behind people at risk of drowning, or fulfilling our legal duty to carry out rescues, and subsequently facing fines, detention and the possible confiscation of our ships," they said. -

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