Friday

7th Oct 2022

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

Opinion

Could blockchain help EU process asylum claims?

Asylum proceedings are one of the biggest issues with the EU's migration policy, and digital identification through blockchain to register and track refugees would be an instrumental step towards the level of necessary reform.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden: Nord Stream probe points to 'gross sabotage'
  2. Orbán rails against Russia sanctions at Prague summit
  3. MEPs urge inquiry into Mahsa Amini killing and Iran sanctions
  4. Thousands of Hungarian students and teachers protest
  5. Swedish MEP cuts hair mid-speech to support Iran women
  6. Danish general election called for 1 November
  7. Slovenia legalises gay marriage, adoption
  8. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  2. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  4. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  5. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”

Latest News

  1. What actually happened at the 'most complicated election in the world'?
  2. Europe lays aside quarrels to isolate Putin
  3. Spyware-hacked MEPs still seeking answers
  4. EU leaders discuss gas price cap — amid rationing fear
  5. Germany braces for criticism of national €200bn energy fund
  6. The fossil-fuel agenda behind EU's carbon-capture plans
  7. Four weeks to COP27 — key issues and challenges
  8. EU wants to see US list on Russia financing of politicians

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us