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Anti-migrant Security Decree bis becomes law in Italy

September 01, 2019
topic:Refugees and Asylum
tags:#Matteo Salvini, #Italy, #Decreto Sicurezza, #migration
by:Federica Tedeschi
The regional administrative court (TAR) of ‘Lazio’ has lifted a ban on Spanish NGO migrant rescue ship Open Arms entering Italian waters, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

The regional courts' decision, which was taken on August 14, has irritated the Interior Minister and leader of the far-right party ‘La Lega’ Matteo Salvini.

Salvini was still celebrating his ‘victory’, as the Italian parliament had passed a security bill named ‘Decreto Sicurezza bis’ less than 10 days before, on August 5.

The policy reform on rescue at sea and public order management during demonstrations was drawn up by Mr. Salvini himself, and granted him new powers to curb immigration by prohibiting entry, transit or parking in Italian territorial waters.

‘Italy is not the refugee camp for Europe and immigrants are no longer welcome,’ Mr Salvini, who is also serving as Deputy Prime Minister, told newspaper Il Messaggero, shortly before the Senate gave the green light to the vote of confidence that the government had previously placed on the ‘Security Decree bis’.

The recent decision from TAR was justified by a ‘situation of exceptional gravity and urgency’ aboard the ship, after viewing medical and psychological reports.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte initially wrote a letter to the leader of ‘La Lega’, urging him to let migrants from the Open Arms land.

The Interior Minister, however, refused to listen to the PM and signed an order banning the Open Arms from landing its migrants in Italy. Salvini told the Italian press that he did not want to be ‘an accomplice of migrant traffickers’.

Neither Mr Conte nor the Minister of Defense, Elisabetta Trenta, signed off on Mr Salvini's orders banning the Open Arms ship from docking in Lampedusa, and the Spanish ship is currently anchored off southern Italy with over 130 migrants on board.

Only those with urgent medical needs have already been accepted by authorities in Lampedusa. A prompt intervention is required, however, as all migrants are psychologically devastated and the ship is like a ticking time-bomb, according to Open Arms.

How is the Security Decree bis going to affect migrants in vessels exactly?

The first of 18 articles that make up the law states that the Minister of the Interior "may restrict or prohibit the entry, transit or parking of ships in Italian territorial waters" for reasons of order and security. Such reasons include cases where it is assumed that the crime of ‘aiding illegal immigration’ has been committed.

According to the new security measure, "in the event of violation of the prohibition of entry, transit or parking" in the territorial sea, the skippers of NGO vessels who have rescued asylum seekers in the Mediterranean will face fines between €150,000 - 1 million (art.2). This constitutes a considerable increase from the €50,000 fine imposed by the previous security bill, which passed last December. And as if a hefty fine were not enough, Article 2 also reads that the skippers involved will be arrested and their vessels seized. The ships would then become state-owned, and the State may use or sell them, or even destroy the vessels two years upon confiscation.

Articles 3-5 concentrate on ways with which to tackle illegal immigration and designate a 2 million euro fund for the repatriation of irregular immigrants. From Article 6 onward, the decree deals with the management of public order during protests and sports events.

The Security Decree bis has immediately sparked fury among all NGOs committed to save the lives of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.

"Inhumanity must not become law. This Decree is a terrible page in history, as it allows repressive, criminal and administrative measures to be used against those who save lives at sea," said Mediterranea Saving Humans’ legal team coordinator Alessandra Sciurba in a video posted on the NGO‘s Facebook page on August 6.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has also express great disappointment, once again, with "the imposition of financial and other sanctions on ship commanders could prevent rescue operations at sea," at a time when "European states have significantly withdrawn their support for relief operations" in the Mediterranean Sea.

UNHCR also highlighted that the initiatives of NGOs, which play a crucial role in saving lives, should never be punished.

Salvini clearly exacerbates Italy's political turmoil over immigration.

The Interior Minister has sparked an additional government crisis last week, by filing a ‘no confidence motion’ against Giuseppe Conte, after a split with the anti-establishment Five Star movement (M5S) on votes regarding a highspeed rail line between Turin and Lyon.

(This article reports facts as of August 16, 2019)

Article written by:
Federica Tedeschi
Embed from Getty Images
The reform on rescue at sea and public order management during demonstrations, was drawn up by Mr. Salvini himself and granted him new powers to curbs immigration by prohibiting entry.
Embed from Getty Images
"Italy is not the refugee camp for Europe and immigrants are no longer welcome."
Embed from Getty Images
The recent decision from TAR was justified by a ‘situation of exceptional gravity and urgency’ aboard the ship after viewing medical and psychological reports.
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