The Italian parliament on Monday made a decision to change into law a security decree that could impose more severe penalties on boats and people conducting search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean sea.
This has seen the United Nations High Commission on Refugees worried about the fate of the immigrants from Africa headed to Europe.
Under these new changes if approved by Parliament, will see fines for private vessels that undertake rescue of persons and do not respect the ban on entry into territorial waters rise to a maximum of €1 million.
This is in addition to the fact that, the vessels will now be automatically impounded.
The UN Refugee Agency decried the decision saying imposing financial or other penalties on ship-masters could deter or impede sea rescue activities by private vessels at a time when European states have largely withdrawn from rescue efforts in the Central Mediterranean.
It added that “NGOs play an invaluable role in saving the lives of refugees and migrants attempting the dangerous sea crossing to Europe. The commitment and humanity that motivates their activities should not be criminalized or stigmatized.”
UNHCR is concerned that commercial vessels might be forced to transfer those rescued at sea to be disembarked in Libya.
It said the situation in Libya is volatile and it is not a safe place for the immigrants.
UNHCR called on States to build on recent discussions in Paris-France to establish a temporary, predictable arrangement for disembarking people after they have been rescued.