Posted on November 7, 2022

New Italian Government Closes Ports to NGO Ships

Colleen Barry and Sylvie Corbet, Associated Press, November 4, 2022

Italy’s new far-right led government adopted a measure Friday formalizing the closure of its ports to rescue ships run by humanitarian groups as four vessels with more than 1,000 migrants continued to press for a safe port.

Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi told reporters Italy would allow a German migrant rescue ship to arrive in Sicily to land minors and those with medical emergencies, but he said the ship must then return to international waters with the rest of the migrants.

Piantedosi said the German-flagged Humanity 1, carrying 179 people, “forced the situation by entering into territorial waters.” But he emphasized Italy’s position that it is the flag country of each charity-operated ship that must intervene to provide a safe port — and not Italy.

The fate of the other ships was not addressed, but Piantedosi said France had indicated it “could accept the possibility to disembark” the Norway-flagged Ocean Viking, which has 234 people on board.

The Humanity 1 was on its way to the Sicilian port of Catania, Piantedosi said, adding it would be allowed to remain in Italian waters only long enough to disembark minors and people needing medical care.

The move came after France and Germany asked Italy’s new government to grant a safe port to more than 1,000 people rescued by humanitarian groups in the central Mediterranean, some of whom have been stuck at sea for more than two weeks.

The posture adopted by Premier Giorgia Meloni’s new government marks a return to the anti-NGO position adopted by Matteo Salvini, now a deputy premier, when he was interior minister in 2018-2019.

Salvini, currently the infrastructure minister in charge of ports, welcomed the new decree in a Facebook post, saying it would ensure that “foreign ships cannot arrive solely in Italy with their illegal immigrants.”


At the same time, Italian authorities continue to allow the arrivals of people rescued at sea by Italian patrols, including 456 arriving in Calabria on Thursday and some 6,000 over the last week.


French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Friday that international law makes clear that Italy, as the closest port, “must let the ship in.” {snip}


He also said France and Germany have told Italy that they are both ready to receive some of the migrants so Italy won’t “bear the burden alone.”