Italy and Malta are taking steps to prevent migrant rescue NGOs operating at sea off the coast of North Africa.


The campaign against NGOs saving migrants at sea started by the Italian Minister of Interior, Matteo Salvini. Salvini is accusing NGOs of interfering with rescue work by the Libyan coastguard, contributing to people smuggling. He told Corriere della Serra that such NGOs are not “legitimate.”

Taking to Twitter, Salvini made clear that the policy of closing Italian ports to rescue ships will continue.

In one of his Facebook posts, he warned that “the fewer that depart, the fewer will perish.”

Two ships have so far been refused to dock in Italy, namely the Aquarius and Lifeline.

Italy is also refusing to abide by Dublin Regulation, obliging countries where migrants arrive to process asylum applications; all migrants that manage to transit within the EU can be returned back to the country entry. Rome has made clear that Italy will not accept migrants send back from other EU member states.

The German Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, is advocating reinstating border controls.


Last week, the Maltese government said that it will no longer allow migrant ships to dock while impounding the NGO-owned Lifeline. The captain of the boat has been detained.

The migrant rescue NGO Sea Watch that owns the Lifeline urged the Maltese government on Monday to stop hindering rescue workers, causing a mass grave in the Mediterranean.

Sea-Watch is arguing that its captain is held without any legal grounds.

Meanwhile, on Sunday UNHCR reported that more than 100 people drowned last Friday off the coast of Libya, including women and children. The area is no longer covered by rescue boats, The Times of Malta report.

“What kind of world are we living in when sea rescuers are criminalised?,” the captain of Lifeline Claus-Peter Reisch asked Maltese media.