EU Refuses to Intervene as Migrant ‘Taxi’ Ship NGOs Rail Against Italian Border Control Decree

RAVENNA, ITALY - DECEMBER 31: Ocean Viking humanitarian ship docks at the port of Ravenna
Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Getty Images

NGOs operating migrant “taxi” ships have complained to the European Union about new Italian border controls, but the bloc has claimed it will not get involved.

Several NGOs operating migrant “taxi” ships in the Mediterranean Sea have released a joint statement against the new regulations, which threaten major fines and ship seizures if they violate the new rules.

“Overall, the Italian law decree contradicts international maritime, human rights and European law, and should therefore trigger a strong reaction by the European Commission, the European Parliament, European Member States and institutions,” the NGOs insisted in their statement, Il Giornale reports.

When asked about the new Italian rules, however, European Commission spokeswoman Anitta Hipper said that it was not up to the EU to “look specifically at the content of this decree.”

The joint statement also claims that the decree will put the lives of migrants at further risk, saying: “Among other rules, the Italian Government requires civilian rescue ships to immediately head to Italy after each rescue. This delays further lifesaving operations, as ships usually carry out multiple rescues over the course of several days.”

The NGOs argue that another recent policy, which has seen Italy assign NGO ships to ports far from the search and rescue (SAR) area, “will inevitably result in more people tragically drowning at sea.”

While the NGOs claim that more drownings are likely if their activity ceases, the opposite was true when former Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini effectively banned them from Italian ports in 2018 and 2019.

Under Salvini’s security decrees, migrant crossing attempts went down considerably as a result of migrants releasing they would be unlikely to reach Europe, with drowning deaths at sea also decreasing as a result.

The European Union border agency has also labelled the NGOs’ presence in the Mediterranean a pull factor for migrants as many leave to make the dangerous journey in expectation of being “rescued” by migrant “taxis” loitering off the coast of North Africa, where making the entire journey on the boats supplied by people-smugglers would be far harder.

NGOs have also been accused of working directly with people-smugglers, coordinating their search and rescue missions, while others have noted that smugglers track the locations of NGO vessels and send boats to those areas.

The number of migrants dropped off by NGOs is not insignificant either, with over 10,000 migrants being brought ashore by various vessels operating in the Mediterranean from January to September last year.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)



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