The crew of NGO ship Geo Barents during the rescue of dozens of migrants and refugees from an overcrowded dinghy | Photo: ANSA/MSF
The crew of NGO ship Geo Barents during the rescue of dozens of migrants and refugees from an overcrowded dinghy | Photo: ANSA/MSF

A prominent Catholic bishop and leader of the Migrantes foundation is among NGO leaders to call on the Italian government to scrape their new decree regarding the rescue of migrants and refugees by humanitarian ships.

A top Catholic bishop has come out against a move by Italy's new government to tighten regulations regarding humanitarian ships involved in rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

Gian Carlo Perego is the head of the pastoral branch of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) and the CEI commission for migration, known as Fondazione Migrantes. On Monday (January 16), he discussed why the security decree introduced by Italy's new government should be abrogated. 

Migrantes head: Decree doesn't help again human trafficking

"If there was the desire to fight against human trafficking, the attention should have been on the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding with Libya instead of on the activities of NGOs, as all UNHCR reports have documented in recent years," said Perego.

He made these remarks in front of a meeting of the Italian parliament's constitutional affairs and transportation committees.

"Given the growth of arrivals and rescues at sea of migrants from at least 60 countries in the world, many of whom in war situations, domestic conflicts, environmental disasters, poverty, and life-risking situations, [...] we -- as the CEI's Fondazione Migrantes -- would have expected fresh commitments and new regulations for the protection or repatriation of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, as well as stricter regulations on pushbacks at sea, [...] instead of reiterating some well-known and shared rules of engagement that have been further adjusted and aggravated," he said. 

'Against guidelines on sea rescues' 

There rules run "counter to guidelines on rescues at sea and some international conventions in at least three points [...]: the request for the captain [of the ship] to set in motion the procedure for the request for international protection [...]; the impossibility of several rescue actions during the journey to reach the closest and safest port [...]; the difficulty of disembarkation, in any case, of those rescued at sea in an emergency situation," the bishop argued.

The Migrantes chief said that, "the decree does not go into the real problems that should be dealt with in regard to the arrivals in the Mediterranean: attention to reception on the island of Lampedusa, with strengthening of the forms of healthcare of the migrants disembarking, the identification and access to the center, overcrowding in the center leading to a lack of security first and foremost for the migrants, new measures to reduce crowding in the center, and the autonomous arrival of small boats and their management, which account for 50% of all arrivals."

He added: "There is not a single word on new agreements with the countries the migrants are departing from. Not a word on the situation of these countries of departure. No reference to Europe and, especially, to agreements with several different countries for the reception of migrants seeking asylum and the broadening to other types of regular entrances, such as humanitarian corridors."

Bishop wants new decree to be abolished

The bishop went on to say that, within the decree there is no reference to "migration via land, which involves similar numbers [of migrants], and the problems connected to the protection of migrants." 

According to the Migrantes chief, as a means to "deal with the problems of migration in the Mediterranean and the protection of asylum seekers, the decree does not add anything of worth. To the contrary: it worsens the situation as concerns the obligation to rescue migrants at sea and protect them, fostering insecurity of migrants at risk." 

He argued that "the decree should simply end with its abrogation."


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