Amnesty International has accused Italy, Malta and the European Union of endangering migrants and violating their rights through their policies in the Mediterranean, in a new report released Wednesday.
According to the NGO, 721 people died or disappeared at sea in the months of June and July 2018 alone, out of 1,111 victims since the beginning of the year, due to the hardening of rescue policies in Italy and Malta.
The Italian government of Giuseppe Conte is criticised for its growing refusal to welcome migrants rescued at sea in Italian ports. The policy that has been in place since 10 June, led by the far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini, is in violation of the Law of the Sea, which says that states should facilitate rapid disembarkation of people rescued at sea as quickly as possible.
“Italy has long claimed, and rightly so, a fair sharing of rescue responsibilities in the central Mediterranean,” Amnesty said in his report. However, banning landings as a means of pressure can be seen as a conscious and insensitive attempt to attack the nature of search and rescue operations at sea for political reasons.”
Amnesty emphasised that NGO ships are not the only ones concerned by these measures. Several commercial vessels, as well as foreign warships, met with opposition from the Italian authorities when they asked to land survivors in Italian ports.
Amnesty International is also critical of Malta’s failure to meet its international rescue obligations by relying heavily on Italy to conduct operations and to accommodate those rescued. In particular, the island state avoids rescuing overcrowded boats that cross its waters.
In the report, Amnesty urges European governments to end the outsourcing of their migration policy by returning migrants to Libya. The NGO denounces a vicious circle, which it says could have “fatal consequences.”