The Italian government has released its eleven-point migrant code of conduct which must be followed by pro-migrant NGOs or they will not be allowed to use Italian ports.
At a meeting on Thursday in Estonia, the Italian government handed in a list of 11 rules that must be followed by pro-migrant NGOs in what they call a new “code of conduct”. The rules come after a huge surge of migrants landing in recent weeks with one 48-hour period seeing 13,500 migrants arrive in the country, Kronen Zeitung reports.
The first point in the new NGO code of conduct is that NGO vessels should not operate in Libyan territorial waters unless there is a risk to life such as potential drownings. Libyan coastguard authorities have accused NGOs of operating within their waters in the past including one incident in which they clashed with an NGO ship attempting to rescue migrants.
Emergency transponders on rescued vessels are also not to be switched off, likely so that authorities can determine where the boats were when rescued. Some have accused NGOs of using phones or other signals to communicate with people smugglers, and the Italian government has ordered all phone calls and light signals to be stopped during rescue operations.
NGO ships will also now be forced to, except in emergency situations, transport migrants back to Italy themselves rather than pass them on to naval vessels. Ruben Neugebauer, spokesman for the pro-migrant NGO Sea-Watch said: “If we are forced to bring rescued refugees to ports in Italy ourselves, then the task forces are reduced for sea rescue. This means more dead refugees.”
NGOs are not to interfere with Libyan coastguard operations, allow police on board their ships who are investigating people smugglers, and perhaps, most importantly, reveal all the sources of their funding.
Ships coming into Italy will have to give the authorities two hours’ notice with information on their current mission and those aboard before they approach ports as well to better prepare authorities.
Italy has threatened to close her ports, and even seize the boats of those NGOs who refuse to abide by the new rules, which it is still discussing and should be implemented in the next days or weeks, according to Italian Minister of the Interior Marco Minniti.
Many European countries, as well as the EU border agency Frontex, have accused the NGOs of encouraging people smugglers and migrants to come and some have described their activities as a “taxi service”. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who has previously said he wants the Mediterranean migrant route closed, said the Italian proposal is a “step in the right direction”.