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New direction for Italian policy on rescue ships

6 September 2019

Italy’s punitive approach to search-and-rescue ships attempting to land migrants and refugees rescued from the Mediterranean Sea looks set to change with the formation of a new government.

Over the last few months, under the direction of then interior minister Matteo Salvini, charity ships were threatened with fines and confiscation if they attempted to disembark rescued people. At least eight captains and rescue ship volunteers have faced prosecution in recent months. Most recently, the Italian charity ship Mare Jonio was fined EUR300,00 after it saved more than 100 migrants and refugees. The German captain and mission chief of the Eleonore rescue ship have also been under investigation on suspicion of encouraging illegal immigration after they defied an entry ban and landed more than 100 rescued people in Sicily.

The new Italian coalition government that has now been formed has agreed to abolish the Salvini decree that enabled the seizure and fining of rescue boats that brought migrants to Italy without permission. The new interior minister, Luciana Lamorgese, has previously been in charge of planning refugee and migrant reception centres in northern Italy.


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