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Italian authorities impound migrant rescue boat

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Picture: Open Arms – Italian authorities have seized a charity boat operated by Open Arms after it disembarked 176 people saved at sea, the writer says. The organisation was accused of violating Italy’s recent rules introduced to limit the influx of migrants to the country.

By Peoples Dispatch

Open Arms, an organisation assisting people lost at sea in the Mediterranean, announced that Italian authorities had seized their vessel and were threatening them with a fine of up to EUR 10,000 after the boat landed at Carrara port on Wednesday October 4. Over the past few days, the boat rescued 176 migrants, including 90 unaccompanied minors, in international waters.

Following disembarkation, the ship’s captain was questioned for more than 6 hours, and a 20-day administrative blockade was placed on the vessel. The organisation was accused of violating Italy’s recent rules introduced to limit the influx of migrants to the country.

While far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had announced that she would make reducing the number of migrants arriving in Italy a priority of her government, there was an increase in arrivals in 2023. This year, more than 135,000 people arrived in Italy, compared to the approximately 72,000 who landed in the whole of 2022.

In an attempt to crack down on arrivals, the Meloni government introduced rules that limit the number of actions charity boats like the ones operated by Open Arms can take per outing. The new rules require boats to sail to port after each action, “preventing them from organising multiple operations at sea”, as one of the organisation’s spokespersons explained to news agencies.

Collisions on the European Union’s migration policy marked high-level negotiations on the Union’s new migration pact last week. Italy nearly blocked the process after it was announced that the German government was providing financial support to organisations operating charity boats.

At the time, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani demanded that the new EU migration system include provisions to ensure that migrants saved by vessels financed by EU members are then shipped to these countries, instead of remaining in Italy.

Italy finally agreed to the draft agreement, which will subsequently be discussed at the European Parliament, on October 4, just a day ahead of a meeting of the European Political Community taking place in Granada.

This meeting, just like the discussions that took place in the days preceding it, has an agenda heavy with issues related to migration, with conservative leaders like Meloni and Rishi Sunak from the United Kingdom pushing for an even stricter migration policy in the EU and its influence zone.

Meanwhile, the current European migration policies continue to cause hundreds of deaths each year. In just this year as of September, 2,500 migrants have died or gone missing at sea.

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch