UNHCR says Italy may be in violation of international humanitarian law

EPA-EFE/MIGUEL PARQUET

A woman reacts after being rescued at sea by Spanish Maritime Rescue services and carried ashore in Motril, Granada, Spain, June 9 2018.

UNHCR says Italy may be in violation of international humanitarian law


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The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on July 31 said in a Tweet that the new Italian government may be in violation of international law for the repatriation of migrants from Libya, due to the level of instability in the war-torn North African nation.

Under current regulations, individuals that have been saved in international waters cannot be returned to a state that is considered unsafe by the United Nations and the European Union.

Italy has rejected the UN’s charges, saying the Italian government cannot be held responsible for Libyan search-and-rescue operations outside the jurisdiction of its own territorial waters. Italy’s populist government has also accused European NGOs of saving migrants off the coast of Libya and then bringing them onto European shores, an act that Rome says is tantamount to collaborating with human traffickers and hinders the work of the Libyan coastguard.

Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish NGO, claimed, however, that they intercepted radio communication between Italian vessels and the Libyan coastguard where they coordinated operations in international waters for the rescue of 108 migrants on July 30.

Italy’s right-wing Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, followed up the claim with a post on Facebook whereby he said that Italy bears no responsibility for the fate of migrants that are not within Italy’s administrative land or sea borders and doubled down on the conspiracy theory that has gained popularity with Europe’s anti-immigrant, far-right politicians that humanitarian NGOs are working in coordination with North African human traffickers.

Spain’s new foreign minister, Josep Borrell. on July 30 to re-classify the current wave of migration from North Africa, arguing that the word “mass” has been overused and is no longer on the same levels at the height of the Syrian crisis in summer of 2015.

Only 21,000 migrants arrived in Spain in the first half of 2018 through the Libya-Italy Mediterranean route. Spain is now the main destination for migrants after Italy began enforcing its sea-based border patrols off the coast of Sicily and the traditional route through Morocco was closed after the Spanish government re-enforced its border security around Madrid’s North African exclave in Ceuta.

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