A coalition of humanitarian groups is formally asking the European Commission to review Italian legislation governing migration
ROME — A coalition of humanitarian groups formally asked the European Commission to review Italy’s legislation governing migration on Thursday, following the Italian government’s latest detention of a ship used to rescue migrants at sea.
Emergency, Doctors Without Borders, SOS Humanity and ASGI, a legal association that studies migration, filed the request alleging that the Italian legislation raises questions about its compatibility with European Union norms and international law.
The European Commission is the guardian of the EU’s treaty, rules and regulations but on several political issues it has little or no power or willingness to intervene in domestic legislation, unless that legislation thwarts fundamental rules that the member states have pledged to uphold.
The appeal marked a new development in Italy’s crackdown on migrants under the right-wing government of Premier Giorgia Meloni. Earlier this week, Italian authorities impounded the Ocean Viking ship operated by SOS Mediterranee in partnership with the Red Cross after that boat’s latest rescue.
In a statement Thursday, SOS Mediterranee said an Italian coast guard inspection of the ship in Civitavecchia on Tuesday identified “a very few technical and administrative deficiencies” that will require further investigation. The more in-depth investigation will delay the Ocean Viking’s return to sea, the group lamented.
Such inspections are now routine in Italy as part of the government’s stepped up monitoring of the activities of humanitarian groups that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean and then seek to disembark them in Italian ports.
The aid groups filing a complaint with Brussels cited other Italian norms requiring rescue ships to go to port after a single rescue, rather than remain at sea conducting other rescues.
Meloni’s government, which accuses humanitarian groups of essentially running a taxi service for migrants, has also assigned ports of disembarkation far up on the Italian coast.
The Italian government says the norms are necessary for the safety of migrants and to distribute them so southern welcome centers in the south aren’t overburdened. But aid groups say the measures lengthen the amount of time charity vessels are essentially out of commission and away from the area of the Mediterranean plied by migrant smugglers.