UNHCR concerned about Italy’s law on immigrants

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Would-be immigrants stand on a coastguard vessel as they arrive at Tarifa's harbour on August 11, 2014, after being rescued off the Spanish Coast. Spain's coastguard today rescued more than 260 sub-Saharan African migrants crossing the Strait of Gibraltar on small boats. Many migrants from sub-Saharan Africa attempt to cross into Spain from Morocco, either by sea through the Strait of Gibraltar or overland, via the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in the extreme north of Morocco. AFP PHOTO / MARCOS MORENO (Photo credit should read MARCOS MORENO/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Illegal immigrants are transferred to Tripoli’s naval base in Tripoli, Libya, on June 21, 2018. Image courtesy: Xinhua

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ship-masters could deter or impede sea rescue activities by private vessels at a time when European states have largely withdrawn from rescue efforts in the Central Mediterranean.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.

 

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