Italy’s redefinition of sea rescue as a crime draws on EU policy for inspiration

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Series Details Volume 21, Number 2
Publication Date April 2019
ISSN 1756-851X
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On the evening of 18 March, an ongoing conflict between the Italian government and civil sea rescue initiatives was reignited following the rescue of 49 people in international waters north of Libya by the ship Mare Jonio, of the Italian citizen-funded sea rescue initiative Mediterranea - Saving Humans.1 Matteo Salvini, the interior minister, reacted to the rescue operation and the ship’s request for a safe harbour for disembarkation by issuing a directive which seeks to subordinate the infrastructure and transport ministry’s competences for port-related issues to security concerns. Amongst these, fighting illegal immigration figures prominently. With this directive, Salvini is attempting to prevent the application of international law and in doing so, he has cited the European Agenda on Migration as a justification. In fact, examined alongside recent Council proposals, it appears that the approaches of the Italian government and the EU institutions to unauthorised sea arrivals are not necessarily that different.

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