NGOs say Italy’s ‘code of conduct’ threatens migrants’ lives

Thousands more refugees could be at risk of dying at sea if a proposed ‘code of conduct’ for NGOs conducting search and rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean is put into practice, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday (12 July).

On 6 July in Tallinn, the Italian government proposed a “code of conduct” for NGOs operating privately-owned ships in the Mediterranean to make sure that they don’t act as taxis, ferrying refugees found off the Libyan coast, to Italian ports.

Having reviewed a leaked copy of the proposed code, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said its application would limit the ability of NGOs to save human lives.

“Perversely, the proposed code of conduct for NGOs saving lives in the Mediterranean could put lives at risk. Attempts to restrict life-saving NGO search and rescue operations risk endangering thousands of lives by impeding rescue boats from accessing the perilous waters near Libya,” said Iverna McGowan, the director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, in a press release.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch contend that the draft pact would curtail the work of NGOs carrying out search and rescue operations on the central Mediterranean by imposing the following restrictions:

  • Barring them from entering Libyan territorial waters to undertake rescues;
  • Banning them from using lights to signal their location to vessels at imminent risk of sinking;
  • Forcing them to return to port to disembark refugees and migrants, rather than allowing them to transfer rescued people onto other vessels at sea if necessary. This, they claim, would force NGO search-and-rescue teams to move away for long periods from the area where they are needed, leaving more people at risk of drowning in the Central Mediterranean.

The two international NGOs note that draft includes the threat of refusal to allow vessels from NGOs to disembark in Italy if they do not sign the code or fail to comply with any of its provisions.

Any code of conduct, if necessary, should have the goal of making rescue operations at sea more effective at saving lives, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said. It should be agreed upon consultation with the groups involved in search and rescue, should apply to all vessels carrying out rescues in the Mediterranean, and should not be linked to disembarkation.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch believe that the code of conduct may in some cases hinder rescue operations and delay disembarkations in a safe place within a reasonable amount of time, breaching the obligations that both states and shipmasters have under international law of the sea.

The two NGOs believe that the proposed code of conduct comes amid “a concerted smear campaign against these groups”.

Despite their humanitarian mission, aid groups have come under fire, with some critics saying their presence encourages refugees to attempt the crossing.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch deplored the fact that the EU and its member countries have failed to provide Italy and other frontline member states with the shared support and assistance they need.

The two international NGOs say they have documented “reckless and abusive behaviour by Libyan coastguard forces”, to whom the EU seeks to sub-contract the duty of rescuing refugees.

“NGOs are out there in the Mediterranean rescuing people because the EU is not,” said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Read other news on the city site of Tallinn.

euractiv
codeofconduct migrants
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
2 views in march
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Politics
Chairman of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and one of the owners of construction group Nordecon, Toomas Luman, finds that a prime ministerial candidate should first and foremost be able to answer the question of what will become of the demographic crisis in Estonia. The businessman sees controlled introduction of foreign labor as the solution. A digital construction cluster was created in Estonia a few years back to bring innovation to the s...
Society
Last year saw 27,125 registered offenses, up 0.5 percent from the year before. Violent crime was up by 12 percent to 8,249 offenses. PHOTO: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire / Press Association Images / Scanpix Growth was biggest for domestic violence – the police launched criminal proceedings in 3,607 cases that constitutes an increase of more than one-third – annual growth of 37 percent from 2,632 cases in 2017. At the same time, reports of domestic violence we...
Society
TALLINN - Ahead of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, tens of thousands of British citizens have chosen the citizenship of some other country, but only one Brit has recently chosen an Estonian citizenship. Spokespeople for the Ministry of the Interior told BNS that only one British citizen submitted an application for Estonian citizenship last year and the applicant was also granted the citizenship. Before that, no Brits had soug...
Society
TALLINN - Experts from Finland, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands highlighted the importance of decentralization and granting local governments greater decision-making powers at a conference titled "Strong local government -- strong state?" in Tallinn on Wednesday.  All Nordic countries have chosen a model granting local governments significant decision-making powers, thus the central government does not prescribe how local governments are to fulfill the...
Society
The language learning application Drops by game developer Planb Labs, established in Estonia by Hungarian founders, was named Google Play's best app of 2018. With the number of downloads surpassing 10 million, Drops was named Google's app of the year as the revenue of Planb Labs, a company registered in Estonia, increased fivefold, CNBC said. The developer's revenue grew from €335,000 in 2017 to €1.7 million in 2018. The company's shareholders include Hung...
Society
TALLINN - The Estonian Health Board has banned the distribution of chlorine dioxide, also marketed as the Miracle Mineral Supplement (MMS), the A-component of an unused product, meaning the sodium chlorite solution, must be taken to a hazardous waste collection facility. Ester Opik, head of the Health Board's North regional department, said that the banning of the distribution of the product was caused by the fact that MMS, distributed as a cosmetics produ...
Society
Nature cannot abide a vacancy, as the saying goes. If just one year ago, Estonia was battling the sale of MMS and the practice of giving it to children, a new “miracle cure” called Advanced TRS has appeared on the market now. Even though the make-up of the substance is different, the promise to cure autism and cleanse the body of heavy metals, which kind of extreme detox is accompanied by severe side-effects, sounds all too familiar. TRS is recommended to...
Society
Allied NATO battalions will soon mark two years serving in the Baltics. They have worked better than expected but would need prepositioned heavy weaponry and a functional contingency plan in case of a crisis, a report by the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) finds. “We do not know how Russia would have acted had we not welcomed allies in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in 2017. I’m afraid they would have tested our resolve,” one of...
Society
The time of filing income tax returns is nearly upon us. The new income tax system, in effect since last year, will obligate many women who went on maternity leave toward the end of the year to make additional income tax payments, while those who give birth in the middle or at the beginning of the year have no such obligation. What this means is that some women will owe the state simply for giving birth “at the wrong time”. Laura Roop, who went on maternit...