Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

NGOs divided by Italy's new rescue code

  • Over 95,000 people have arrived via the Mediterranean this year. (Photo: EEAS)

Five aid groups have refused to sign Italy’s code of conduct for organisations that run migrant rescue ships in the Mediterranean, the Italian interior ministry said on Monday (31 July).

Three other organisations backed the new rules, which include a ban on sending light signals that may help migrants and a ban on transferring migrants to other ships.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

One of the organisations that refused to sign the code of conduct, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said in a letter on Monday that they already respected several provisions, such as financial transparency.

MSF said that the code of conduct could lead to a decrease in the efficiency and capacity of the search and rescue response in the Mediterranean, leading to more deaths.

"Proposals - in particular the one stating that vessels engaged in rescue must disembark survivors to a place of safety as a rule instead of transferring to other ships - present unnecessary limitations to the means at our disposal today,” said the organisation, which noted that it had saved 16,000 people.

"A reduction in the number of rescue vessels would weaken an already insufficient search and rescue capacity, resulting in an increase in mass drownings,” MSF warned, adding that it observes all the maritime and international rules.

Save the Children did sign up to the code of conduct, saying that it already complied with most of the rules.

The Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and Spanish group Proactiva Open Arms also agreed to the code, while Germany's Sea-Watch, Sea-Eye and Jugend Rettet, and France's SOS Mediterranee abstained.

One of the issues they were concerned with was the obligation to accept police officers on board their vessels, which some organisations say interferes with the humanitarian principle of neutrality. Italy argues the officers are needed to root out traffickers hiding among migrants.

The Italian ministry said that all the organisations not participating in the scheme will be outside the “organised system of sea rescue”, and will face “all the consequences”, without going into details.

This year, 95,000 people arrived at Italy’s coast, and more than 2,378 people died on the journey in the Mediterranean, according to UN data.

In the first six months of this year, more than 30 percent of all rescue operations were carried out by NGOs.

Rome is concerned that the presence of NGOs encourages smugglers and migrants to embark on the perilous journey.

Italy had previously threatened to shut its ports to NGOs that did not sign up to the code of conduct.

Rome has also secured the backing of the the EU for the new rules. The European Commission has said the code would aim to better coordinate rescues at sea.

The 12-point code includes a ban on crossing into Libyan territorial waters and calls for cooperation with the police to investigate human trafficking.

But while NGO boats will be banned from Libyan waters, the Italian navy is getting ready to enter them.

Last week, Italy’s government agreed to send naval support to Libyan waters after a request was submitted by the UN-backed government in Tripoli, in its battle against people smugglers.

Rome’s efforts to curb the NGOs’ activities at sea have also been fuelled by an increasingly widespread perception that the organisations are aiding smugglers, something the aid groups have repeatedly denied.

Aside from human rights groups, the UN’s children's agency, Unicef, has also condemned Italy’s code of conduct. It said earlier this month that the new rules put children's lives at risk.

EU backs Italy on NGO rescues

The European Commission has said that the EU and Italy merely want to “better organise” migrant rescues in the Central Mediterranean.

Italy to impose tough rules on NGOs

Italian authorities will release a code of conduct for NGOs, which prevents them, among other things, from entering Libyan territorial waters. A draft copy of the code says NGOs will be banned from Italian ports on failure to comply.

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.

EU and Africa leaders in migrant talks

France is hosting a mini-summit on Monday in Paris with leaders from Germany, Italy, Spain, Chad, Niger and Libya. The talks will likely cover broad discussions on migration, security and development.

'Migration' is now 'protecting European way of life'

The upcoming European Commission has shuffled migration policy into a euphemistic new "Protecting our European Way of Life" European commissioner portfolio, headed by former spokesman Margartis Schinas. Some MEPs are not happy.

News in Brief

  1. Von der Leyen defends 'way of life' slogan
  2. Court hears case on UK's pre-Brexit parliament shutdown
  3. Nato rings alarm on Gulf 'escalation'
  4. Luxembourg mockery of British leader sparks 'anger'
  5. Majority of Belgians against excluding Vlaams Belang
  6. Greece: time for EU to step up on migration
  7. Germany prepared to top up post-Brexit EU budget
  8. New Saudi attack threats, but EU and US still divided

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing
  2. Trumpworld In Europe
  3. How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires
  4. Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal
  5. EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin
  6. EU divided on how to protect rule of law
  7. Nordic region to become world's most sustainable and integrated
  8. In detail: Belgium's EU nominee faces crime probe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us