According to British newspaper The Independent, the far-right interior minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini, has announced a proposal to slap individuals who save refugees at sea with a €5,500 ($6,153) fine for every person they save.
Salvini announced the bill on Friday, which additionally fines ships between €3,500 and €5,500 ($3,916 to $6,153) for each “foreigner” they drop off on Italian soil. Vessels found rescuing and transporting refugees can also have their licenses suspended or even revoked.
Many activists and organizations have called the bill Italy’s “umpteenth attack on human life,” “bullying,” and “bending of international law.”
“It’s like fining ambulances for bringing patients to hospital,” said Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) president Claudia Lodesani in response to the bill’s announcement. “The new decree from the Italian government is threatening legal principles and the duty of saving lives at sea.”
Others have expressed doubt that the bill will become law because it starkly goes against international conventions at sea.
“We don’t expect it to become any kind of piece of enforceable legislation,” said SOS Mediterranee operations director Frederic Penard.
Citing the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, he continued, “Captains doing rescue at sea do not have a choice – it is an obligation.”
Open Arms mission head Riccardo Gatti told the newspaper that he was “neither alarmed nor worried” about the proposal.
“It would be a defeat of search and rescue missions and EU values,” he said. “But we have learned that Salvini’s objective is often to make some noise with some huge declarations that turn out to be false after some time.”
The bill requires approval from the Italian Cabinet before moving to the Italian parliament for a final vote before it becomes law.