Matteo Salvini, Italy's interior minister and deputy prime minister, proposed a bill on Friday aimed at curbing migration by fining services that rescue migrants up to €5,500 per refugee.
But multiple non-government organisations have spoken out against the bill, stating it would contradict international maritime law.
Italian president for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Claudia Lodesani, slammed the move by comparing the new bill to "fining ambulances for bringing patients to the hospital in a press statement.
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“The new decree from the Italian government is threatening legal principles and the duty of saving lives at sea.”
“We don’t expect it to become any kind of piece of enforceable legislation,” Frédéric Penard, SOS Mediterranée director of operations said. “Captains doing rescue at sea do not have a choice – it is an obligation,” he said, citing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982.
Salvini, a staunch opponent of unregulated migration, blocked the German NGO Sea-Eye from entering Lampedusa in April, prompting international backlash. Similar impasses occurred after German humanitarian organisation Sea Watch was forced to wait two weeks before entering Italian ports with roughly 50 migrants, following negotiations between seven EU member states to receive the refugees. Many of Salvini's concerns have also stemmed from chaos erupting in Libya after Marshal Hafter launched an offensive on Tripoli in early April, sparking clashes between the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), setting off fresh waves of refugees fleeing the skirmishes.