Wednesday

22nd Nov 2017

Italy imposing new rules on NGO sea rescues

  • Italy is preparing a 'code of conduct' for NGO rescues at sea (Photo: iom.int)

The European Commission, France and Germany back Italian plans to draw up a "code of conduct" for NGOs unloading people rescued at sea to Italian ports.

Interior ministers from those three nations, along with the EU migration commissioner, announced the proposal on Monday (3 July), following Italian threats last week of preventing charity boats from entering ports in Italy, after some 12,000 people arrived over the span of a few days.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

An EU commission spokeswoman in Brussels said the code would aim to better coordinate rescues at sea. "This is about better coordination of operations conducted in the Mediterranean for search and rescue," she said.

But broader questions remain about the code of conduct's intent, given that Mediterranean sea rescues are coordinated and carried out by the Italian coastguard.

What the code will consist of also remains unclear, especially since Italy's interior minister, Marco Minniti, has called for other EU states to open up their ports.

On Sunday, Minniti told Il Messaggero newspaper that "something is not working" if refugees are only taken to Italy and not to other EU states.

Italian media outlet ilsole24ore.com had also reported on Sunday that the code would ban NGOs from conducting rescues inside Libyan territorial waters.

His under-secretary, Domenico Manzione, earlier this month accused some NGOs of disobeying orders and letting people off at ports that are not equipped to handle the numbers.

"We need to make sure that those who do become active in the Mediterranean, play by the same rules and follow orders," said Manzione.

The three interior ministers had met in Paris on Sunday to discuss the code of conduct ahead of a gathering of all 28 interior ministers at the end of this week in Estonia.

That meeting will be fed, in part, by an "action plan," which is set to be unveiled by the EU commission on Tuesday in Strasbourg.

Italy’s prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, had appealed for help to better manage the arrivals, with over 83,000 having so far disembarked from Libya's coastline this year.

Italy is also reportedly pushing to ease rules on who can become eligible for the EU's relocation scheme.

The scheme distributes asylum seekers, of nationalities that have a 75 percent or greater of obtaining asylum, to other EU states from Italy and Greece. Italy wants that percentage rate lowered.

Anti-NGO perceptions

But the message appears to be part of a broader anti-NGO sentiment following a Financial Times (FT) newspaper article in December that alleged charities were somehow colluding with people smugglers.

The paper later issued a correction for having "overstated the content of confidential briefings," which were provided by the EU's border agency, Frontex.

The Forensic Oceanography branch at the University of London had also produced an extensive study that debunks arguments that NGOs operating near the Libyan coast lure people to take boats towards Italy.

Meanwhile, the EU and its member states continue to wrangle over how to reform internal asylum rules, which remained deadlocked.

The emphasis has since shifted towards preventing people from leaving for Europe.

In late June at an EU summit in Brussels, heads of state and government had said they would step up cooperation with countries around Africa and aim to send more people back.

But even that call was met with scepticism from EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who told press that few had met their financial commitments for a trust fund for Africa.

Of the €1.8 billion promised by EU states, only €89 million had been paid out as of late last month. The bulk of that money is supposed to go to economic development and migration management.

"Norway and Switzerland are pledging more than three-quarters of the members of the European Union. This is not acceptable," said Juncker, at the time.

EU ready to help Italy in NGO dispute

Italy's threat to stop NGOs from unloading rescued migrants at sea will be discussed next week among interior ministers, amid broader internal political stakes ahead of general elections.

Opinion

Italy's action against NGOs is wrong

With the code of conduct Italian authorities are trying to impose on NGOs that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean, people would be forced to endure additional days at sea while states tussle over which port to send them too.

UN criticises EU policy in Libya as 'inhuman'

The EU's policy of helping the Libyan coast guard to return people plucked from the sea is "inhuman", says the UN's human rights chief, given that most end up in dire conditions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  3. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  4. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  5. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  6. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  7. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  8. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  9. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  11. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  12. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'

Latest News

  1. 1.3 million European citizens in call for glyphosate ban
  2. EU 'cannot afford' lengthy German deadlock
  3. David Miliband: EU should take over 500,000 refugees
  4. EU bans 'geo-blocking' - but not (yet) for audiovisual
  5. EU monitoring of Libyan coastguard done by Libyans
  6. Greek opposition leader promises end to 'surreal' era
  7. Refugee case could topple Slovenia government
  8. Leak: EU states weaken post-Dieselgate testing