ITALY: New sea rescue law: NGOs file complaint with EU commission

Extract from article published by InfoMigrants on 13/07/2023 – accessible here.

A group of five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) announced on Thursday they had submitted a complaint with EU leadership against Italy’s government over a law concerning sea rescues. It was first issued as a decree in January, and passed into law by parliament soon after.

The law requires ships that rescued migrants from a boat in the Mediterranean to immediately head to the port assigned to them by Italian authorities without carrying out further rescue operations.

At least four NGO ships — the Louise Michel, the SEA-EYE 4 and MARE*GO and the Aurora — have been detained in Italy since the introduction of the new law after carrying out multiple rescues.

Does it violate international sea rescue laws?

The five organizations that filed the complaint include Doctors Without Borders (MSF), SOS Humanity and EMERGENCY — three actors involved in search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean — as well as the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) and Oxfam Italia.

“[T]he law raises serious concerns regarding its compatibility with relevant EU law and the obligations of EU member states under international law,” MSF’s sea rescue team said on Twitter.

NGOs advocating for the rights of migrants and refugees and the UN have expressed worry about the law numerous times, saying that it puts lifes at risk. They have also argued that the law violates international law, which obliges nearby ships to rescue those in distress at sea.