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Amnesty International denounces Europe’s “deadly” immigration policies in Mediterranean

Wednesday, 8 August, 2018 - 15:19

Amnesty International accuses Italy, Malta and the European Union of endangering migrants and violating their rights through their policies in the Mediterranean, in a report released on Wednesday. According to the NGO, 721 people died or disappeared at sea in June and July of 2018 alone, out of 1,111 victims since the beginning of the year, due to the hardening of the Italian and Maltese rescue and  reception policies.

The Italian government of Giuseppe Conte is criticised for its refusal to take in migrants rescued at sea to 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 the rapid disembarkation of those rescued at sea.

“Italy has rightly demanded for a long time a fair sharing of the responsibilities associated with the rescue of people in the central Mediterranean,” says the NGO in its report:

“However, denying disembarkation as a pressure tool to achieve responsibility sharing in the area of asylum and migration is at best irresponsible. At
worst, it might be considered as a conscious, callous attempt to undermine the very nature of search and rescue at sea for political purposes.”

The report cites as an example the case of Aquarius, which was denied entry to Italian ports in early June, while operating in collaboration with the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (IMRCC). The ship was finally received in Valencia, Spain, 1500 km from the Maltese coast, where it was held.

Amnesty notes that NGO ships are not the only ones concerned by these measures. Several commercial vessels, as well as foreign warships, faced opposition from the Italian authorities when they asked to land survivors in Italian ports.

The NGO also points to the undermining work carried out since 2017 by Italian and European politicians, aimed at discrediting the work of these organisations. The NGOs are accused of allying with traffickers and  encouraging migrants to attempt the sea crossing.

Amnesty International is also critical of Malta’s failure to meet its international rescue obligations, relying heavily on Italy to carry out operations and to accommodate those rescued.

With this report, Amnesty urges European governments to end the outsourcing of their migration policy by returning migrants to Libya. The NGO denounced the practice as a vicious circle, which could have “fatal consequences.”


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