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ITALY’S far-right League party announced today that NGO migrant rescue ships that enter its territorial waters without permission could now be fined up to €1 million (£898,770).
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini originally introduced fines for NGO ships that pick up migrants in the Mediterranean in June as part of a security Bill while he was desperately trying to keep German charity Sea Watch from landing 40 refugees in Italy.
The League introduced the amendments to the legislation today while Carola Rackete, captain of the Sea Watch 3 — who, after a 17-day standoff, defied Mr Salvini and disembarked the migrants on the island of Lampedusa — was being questioned by Italian prosecutors for what they describe as aiding illegal immigration.
The Italian authorities initially tried to charge Ms Rackete with refusing to comply with a warship that tried to block her vessel’s way into port, but a judge rejected this on July 3, saying that her decision not to comply was justified by the duty to save lives.
UN human rights experts condemned Italy today over its criminal proceedings against Ms Rackete.
“Rescuing migrants in distress at sea is not a crime,” the experts said. “We urge the Italian authorities to immediately stop the criminalisation of search and rescue operations.”
Leaving a court hearing in Sicily this afternoon, Ms Rackete said she was happy to have the opportunity to explain the rescue to the court.
“I sincerely hope that the European Commission now, after the new election of the parliament, will do their very best to prevent situations like that happening and that all the European countries will work together in the future to accept any people which the civilian fleet have rescued.”
On Tuesday, the parliament of Spain’s Catalonian region unanimously agreed to award its medal of honour to Ms Rackete, who is German, and to Oscar Camps, director of Spanish migrant rescue group Proactive Open Arms.
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