NGOs investigate anti-migrant ‘taxi’ ship decree, EU refuses to intervene

NGOs investigate anti-migrant ‘taxi’ ship decree, EU refuses to intervene

NGOs that operate migrant “taxi” ships have complained to the EU about new Italian border controls, but the bloc has claimed it will not get involved.

Several voluntary organizations that operate “taxi” ships for migrants in the Mediterranean have issued a joint statement against the new regulations, threatening large fines and ship seizures if they break the new rules.

“Overall, the Italian legislative decree is in violation of international maritime, human rights and European law and should therefore trigger a strong reaction from the European Commission, the European Parliament, European member states and institutions,” the NGOs insisted in their statement. Il Giornale reports.

However, when asked about the new Italian rules, European Commission spokeswoman Anitta Hipper said it was not up to the EU to “look specifically at the content of this decree”.

The joint statement also claims that the decree will put the lives of migrants at risk, saying: “Among other rules, the Italian government requires civilian rescue ships to immediately leave for Italy after every rescue. This further delays life-saving operations, as ships usually carry out multiple rescues over the course of several days.”

The NGOs claim that another recent policy, which has seen Italy assign NGO ships to ports far from the search and rescue area (SAR), “will inevitably lead to more people tragically drowning at sea.”

While the NGOs claim that more people are likely to drown if their activities cease, the opposite was true when former Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini effectively banned them from Italian ports in 2018 and 2019.

Under Salvini’s security decrees, migrant crossing attempts dropped significantly as a result of migrants letting out that they were unlikely to reach Europe, with drowning deaths at sea also decreasing as a result.

The European Union’s border agency has also labeled the NGOs’ presence in the Mediterranean as a pull factor for migrants as many set off to make the perilous journey in the expectation of being “rescued” by migrant “taxis” loitering off the coast of the North Africa, where the entire journey on the boats provided by people smugglers would be far more difficult.

NGOs have also been accused of working directly with traffickers, coordinating their search and rescue missions, while others have noted that traffickers track the location of NGO vessels and send boats to these areas.

The number of migrants released by NGOs is also not insignificant, with over 10,000 migrants brought ashore by various vessels operating in the Mediterranean from January to September last year.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)

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