Italy to follow Malta in closing ports to NGO vessels

‘They won’t be seeing Italy any more unless it’s on a postcard’

Italy's Home Affairs minister has NGO vessels will no longer be able to refuel and collect supplies in Italian ports
Italy's Home Affairs minister has NGO vessels will no longer be able to refuel and collect supplies in Italian ports

Italy’s Home Affairs minister Matteo Salvini has said that Italy will be closing its ports to migrant rescue vessels.

Salvini had previously said that Italy would allow such vessels to disembark rescued migrants in Italy, but has now upped the ante, by insisting that such vessels would not even be allowed to dock in Italy to refuel or collect supplies.  

The decision comes days after Malta announced it would be closing its ports to NGO vessels, pending an investigation into the operations of the MV Lifeline.

The Lifeline, which flies a Dutch flag, was at the centre of an international dispute last week and was discovered to have been operating without the necessary documentation. The Netherlands claimed that the vessel was only registered as a pleasure craft and was not on its ship register.

The vessel has been impounded in Malta and is being investigated by Maltese authorities.

Salvini’s decision to ban NGO vessels from using Italian ports will make it significantly more difficult for NGOs to carry out rescues in the Mediterranean.

According to ANSA, it is unclear how exactly Salivini’s pledge will be implemented or how long its ports would be closed.

Despite Salvini insisting Italy’s ports will be closed, ANSA said that Transport minister Danilo Toninelli was adopting a more cautious approach, adding that the only official measure currently in place was a ban on the vessel Open Arms, operated by Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms.

The vessel has been banned on the basis of Article 83 of Italy’s Navigation Code, which allows restrictions to be placed on such vessels for reasons of public order.

New dispute on the horizon

Meanwhile in tweet Salvini said that the Open Arms was currently carrying 50 migrants rescued within the Libyan search and rescue area, with Malta being the closest port of call.

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