The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has condemned the new migrant decree enacted by Italy saying it is concerned about the much heavier fines for migrant transport NGOs.
The UNHCR responded to the decree, which was passed into law earlier this week, defending the migrant transport NGOs for picking up migrants off the coast of Libya, L’Express reports.
“Imposing fines or other penalties on commanders may deter or prevent private vessels from conducting rescue activities at a time when European states have virtually withdrawn from rescue efforts in the central Mediterranean,” the agency said.
The new decree, which was drafted by populist Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, sees fines for vessels entering Italian waters without permission increase to penalties of up to one million euros from the previous fine limit of 50,000 euros.
Praising the migrant transport NGOs, the UNHCR said: “The commitment and humanity that motivates them should not be criminalised or stigmatised.”
The UNHCR is not the only organisation to speak out against the new decree. The European Commission has stated that it was also concerned with the new laws and a spokesman said the Commission would be examining the laws to “verify its compatibility with European law”.
Italy Heading to Elections as Populist, Border Control Salvini Prepares to go it Alone Without Coalition https://t.co/Cuf5sIBe93
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The anti-mass migration policies of Matteo Salvini have led to a dramatic reduction in the number of migrants entering Italy illegally and have also contributed to a decline in the number of drowning deaths.
Salvini’s policies have also been highly popular with Italian voters as his League party has soared in the polls since they formed a coalition government with the populist Five Star Movement last year.
While the League managed to climb in the polls, the Five Stars declined and recent conflicts between the two have led to a government crisis.
On Friday, Salvini called on Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to recognise the government could no longer continue and has called for fresh national elections as soon as possible.