The new decree adopted by the Italian government is considered a breach of international law, says the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner.
The Council of Europe (CoE) has urged Italy to scrap or revise an anti-migration decree regulating the activities of migrant rescue ships run by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the Mediterranean Sea.
The new decree adopted by the Italian government is considered a breach of international law, the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, said in a letter to Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi on Thursday.
"I am concerned that the application of some of these rules could hinder the provision of life-saving assistance by NGOs in the Central Mediterranean and, therefore, may be at variance with Italy’s obligations under human rights and international law," Mijatovic wrote.
ANSA news agency reported that the Italian government responded to the letter by saying the concerns expressed by Mijatovic were "baseless."
The government said the decree did not prevent NGO ships from making more than one rescue at sea and its main purpose was to avoid the systematic transport of those rescued off Tunisia and Libya, especially to Italy.
On January 2 this year, Italy passed legislation requiring charity ships to deliver rescued migrants to port immediately, without waiting to save more lives at sea or transferring migrants to bigger vessels.
In 2022, around 104,000 irregular migrants arrived in Italy by sea.
READ MORE: Italy's new rules on rescuing migrants 'contradict' int'l law: charities