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Matteo Salvini. Screenshot from RAI

Italian Appeal Court agrees with Salvini: ‘NGOs should land in their countries’

The Italian Appeal Court has annihilated the theses of left-wing magistrates that NGOs rescuing migrants at sea have the right to land anywhere in the EU.

Published: November 29, 2019, 7:40 am

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    Just a week ago the Agrigento prosecutor’s office tried once again to nail Matteo Salvini, former Interior Minister, accusing him of crimes of kidnapping and omission of official records.

    To do so they withdrew the case of the 164 illegal immigrants who, after being recovered off the coast of Libya by the Open Arms vessel (operating in the service the Spanish NGO founded in 2015 by the Catalan Oscar Camps), were taken to the port of Lampedusa.

    The then Interior Minister had blocked them for twenty days in an attempt to enforce his Security decree. But the anti-Salvini prosecutors simply repeated their charges in launching a fresh investigation – similar to the one (already filed) on the Diciotti case.

    As was reported by Italian dailies the Corriere della Sera and the Fatto Quotidiano, the case regarding the 65 migrants on board the Alan Kurdi, the ship of the German NGO Sea Eye, was overturned by the Rome Appeal Court on November 21.

    In this case, the accusations against Salvini were omission of administrative procedures and abuse of office, but what matters is that the judges have stressed at least one sacrosanct principle: “Non-governmental organizations must land in their own countries.”

    Ever since Salvini started the campaign against illegal immigration, the magistrates have done everything to stop him. “For me, defending my country is always worthy of a medal,” the former minister repeated on more than one occasion despite the legal charges and repeated attempts by various magistrates to dismantle the Security decrees in order to reopen Italian ports.

    The Appeal Court however has now unequivocally confirmed that the argument put forward by the League leader is not only legitimate but should also be respected at a European level. Although the responsibility to assign a “safe haven” to boats, which transport immigrants taken at sea, touches upon the “the indications drawn from international Conventions and agreements” it has been established that “the State of first contact can only identify itself with that of the ship that provided for the rescue”.

    Therefore it is not up to Italy to take charge of non-governmental organisations that continue to knock on their doors in order to have illegal immigrants disembark. In the case of the Alan Kurdi, which after the “no” from Rome had headed to Malta, Salvini did well to block it since the boat operates under the German flag.

    Also because, despite the fact that in some cases the coasts of the reference country of the ship are far away, “the legislation does not offer suitable solutions for the purpose of an effective intervention aimed at protecting the safety of migrants”. That means that not even when they are in danger, should illegals be allowed entry.

    There will therefore be no trial on the case of illegal immigrants stuck on board the Sea Eye in April. “Now I am curious to see at this point what the other prosecutors will decide,” Salvini remarked after the ruling.

    Unfortunately, as Giovanni Bianconi already anticipated in the Corriere della Sera, the provision of the Appeal Court will not put an end to other investigations. However, the motivations of the Rome court remain a political victory for the League leader who immediately insisted that “finally” his measures had been recognized by a judge as legal and that “blocking unauthorized landings of immigrants is not a crime”.

    And so, on the basis of this ruling, Salvini had clearly done well as Minister of the Interior to oppose the blitz by foreign NGOs on Italian ports orchestrated to provoke him. Even when, as in the case of the Sea Watch 3, Carola Rackete had managed to break the entry ban and ram a Guardia di Finanza patrol boat to enter the port of Lampedusa – a criminal act in defiance of Italian law.

    Italian ports had been thrown open to whichever boat loaded with migrants wanted to enter it. In recent days, the Interior Ministry has allowed 213 illegal immigrants on board the Ocean Viking, another 73 of the Open Arms and 78 of the Aita Mari to land in Italy.

    The 364 irregular immigrants were distributed to the ports of Southern Italy and taken to the first reception centers. The numbers, beyond what the Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese believes, are really impressive. And they are destined to grow despite bad weather conditions.

    With the new Giallorossi government the departures and landings have been resumed at an impressive pace. While the Democratic Party have been pressuing Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to have the two Security decrees of Matteo Salvini discarded, they welcome any ship that arrives, loaded with illegal immigrants, and docking in Italian ports.

    “Last week, thirteen boats fleeing Libya, with about 730 people aboard, called us,” a migrant call center Alarm Phone warned on Twitter.

    Alarm Phone was notified of thirteen boats fleeing Libya with an estimated 730 people on board. “Of those who called us, around 420 people were rescued in Europe, 287 by NGO ships and 133 by the Maltese coast guard, while about 190 people were intercepted by the so-called Libyan coast guard and forced to return to Libya: a boat with about 25 people returned independently to Libya.”

    They continued: “We do not know what happened to a boat with 94 people on board.” To these thirteen boats are added many others with hundreds of people on board, who were intercepted by Libyan forces, and another 182 irregular immigrants who arrived in Italy autonomously.

    “We can therefore suppose that in November, in just four days, a total of around 1 500 people tried to escape from Libya” .

    The boat, whose fate is unknown, had contacted Alarm Phone on November 21. On board there were 94 people, including 13 women and several children. “Before our contact with them was interrupted, they told us that the tubes of their inflatable boat were deflating.”

    After the last call nobody has heard from them. Two NGO ships have been searching for the boat, but without any success. “The authorities in Malta and Italy have been informed but have refused to coordinate,” they said.

    The same day, in Libya, a fisherman confirmed the presence of another boat that had left the coast of North Africa the day before and that has never been in contact with Alarm Phone. On board there were about a hundred people.

    “The fisherman convincingly testified that he and his colleagues saved as many people as possible – about 30 people – but they arrived too late for about 70 other drowning people,” they said from the call center, reporting that the fishermen sought to inform the Libyan authorities but that they were not reachable.

    “Authorities, international organizations and the media refuse to give an account of this shipwreck,” they continued, reporting that at least six corpses were found on the coast of Al Khoms. “The European authorities, often depicting themselves as humanitarian actors, refuse to take part in rescue operations and simply monitor the Mediterranean from the sky. Their sole objective is to allow illegal re-entries by proxy, forcing thousands of people returning to the Libyan war zone.”

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    • LuciusAnnaeusSeneca

      We will have to see how this important court decision is received not only in Rome, but in Brussels. The political regimes in both may find in it a challenge to the way they do business as usual. Brussels tacit support of pro-mass migration NGOs might need recalibration. Meanwhile, in Rome, PM Conte will have to deal with the consequences of this decision for his government. This court decision will certainly widen the gap in M5S between the party’s left wing and those who maintain the importance of strong immigration controls that are so important to the success of the party’s social and economic agenda. And the decision could well open a major gap between the PD and M5S, if the latter comes down on the side of those advocating stricter immigration controls.


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