BRUSSELS (AP)—The United Nations refugee agency expressed concern, Aug. 6, that a new Italian law authorizing massive fines against the owners of private rescue ships could endanger the lives of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
A so-called “security decree” drafted by Italy’s right-wing interior minister and approved by lawmakers raised the maximum fine for entering Italian waters without permission to 1 million Euros ($1.1 million) from a previous 50,000 Euros ($56,000). The law also allows for the arrest of captains who ignore orders to stay out of Italian ports and the immediate seizure of their boats by Italian naval authorities.
The U.N. agency said non-governmental organizations operating rescue ships play “an invaluable role” in saving lives and “the commitment and humanity that motivates their activities should not be criminalized or stigmatized.”
The European Union’s executive commission said it was analyzing the legislation to see if it is compatible with EU laws.