A demonstration against the security decree held on August 8 in Palermo. The banner says 'inhumanity is law' | Photo: ANSA/IGOR PETYX
A demonstration against the security decree held on August 8 in Palermo. The banner says 'inhumanity is law' | Photo: ANSA/IGOR PETYX

An association of Italian jurists has launched an appeal to scrap a controversial security and immigration decree in Italy that allows authorities to seize NGO vessels who bring rescued migrants to Italy without permission, among other things. The group Democratic Jurists in Italy said the legislation "violates the constitutional guarantees of foreign citizens."

The controversial security decree drafted by outgoing interior minister Matteo Salvini, who has spearheaded the government's tough stance of denying NGO-run migrant rescue ships access to Italian ports, violates the constitutional rights of foreigners. That's according to Giuristi Democratici in Italia (Democratic Jurists in Italy), an association of jurists.

Calling on the incoming government to scrap the security decree, the association has launched an appeal to "immediately revoke" the measures of the decree.

According to the group, the measures are not only illegitimate from an administrative point of view; they also represent a "very serious violation of juridical principles and constitutional guarantees" that protect the personal freedom of citizens and foreigners, it said.

The new security decree won final approval in August after passing the test of a confidence vote in the Senate. Among other things, the decree mandates that the commanders of ships who rescue people at sea and take them into Italian waters without permission face fines of up to €1 million and the seizure of the vessel.

The aim of the legislation was to build on the original security and migration decree dubbed 'Salvini decree,' which was implemented last August. Its most important measure was to remove the old category of "humanitarian protection" from Italy's asylum laws.

Banning entry undermines constitutional rights, association says

The jurists of Giuristi Democratici in Italia called the motives provided by the decree to deny access to migrant rescue ships "generic" and "prejudiced." The decree also expressed "total discretion bordering on arbitrariness," the jurists said in the appeal, adding that it would write off "an entire system of guarantees built over the years."

The group also accused the outgoing government of "violating international laws" governing rescue operations at sea. Moreover, the decree "influences in a political manner the implementation of the law."

This endangers human lives and forces men and women who are fleeing violence and torture to "return to notoriously unsafe countries like Libya," the association said further.

'Eleonore seized thanks to decree', says Salvini

Meanwhile, outgoing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini continues to hail the "successes" of the decree including the seizure on Monday of private search and rescue vessel Eleonore, which is operated by German NGO Mission Lifeline.

"The ship of the German NGO has been seized thanks to the Security Decree (which the PD wants to scrap)," Salvini wrote on Facebook.

The center-left Democratic Party (PD), previously a member of the opposition, is discussing a possible government alliance with the 5-Star Movement (M5S). Democratic Party (PD) leader Nicola Zingaretti on Monday told designated Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that a "radical" change was needed from the last government's closed ports policy led by Salvini.

The outgoing interior minister also wrote on Facebook that while his former government allies M5S and the PD were "fighting for seats" in the new government, he'd continue "to defend the borders and security of my country."

On Tuesday, prosecutors on the island of Sicily on Tuesday placed German captain and mission chief of the Eleonore rescue vessel, Claus-Peter Reisch, under investigation on suspicion of favoring illegal immigration.

Reisch declared a state of emergency on board and defied an entry ban Monday, landing at Pozzallo in Sicily. The 104 migrants aboard the rescue ship that had been stranded at sea for eight days were allowed to disembark after police confiscated the boat.

On Wednesday, five EU member states said they agree to receive the 104 migrants aboard the Eleonore without Italy.

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