German NGO migrant boat service ‘Sea-Eye’ asks German government to protect them from Italy

By Dénes Albert
4 Min Read

The NGO behind the “Sea-Eye” migrant boat service has called on the German government to protect them from the Italian authorities during their activities in the Mediterranean Sea.

The government in Rome has been taking new measures to restrict the operation of migrant boat services off the coast of Italy.

In a statement released by Sea-Eye regarding Italy’s new rules, the NGO writes that Italy has no authority over their boats.

“According to the version of the decree available to us and a preliminary assessment of its legal content, it is likely to be unlawful insofar as it seeks to regulate the conduct of German-flagged vessels in international waters and to sanction them upon entry into the Italian territorial sea. The coastal state has no authority to regulate and enforce the rescue of foreign ships beyond its territorial sea (12 nautical miles).”

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Sea-Eye board member Annika Fischer also wrote in a press release on Friday: “We reject this so-called code of conduct and fear that this will lead to conflicts with the Italian authorities. We therefore expect the German government to protect the sea rescue organizations under the German flag from the illegal behavior of the Italian authorities and to support us decisively in the event of conflict.”

Supporters of the NGO argue the boats provide vital rescue services, while critics contend these NGOs encourage many migrants to risk the dangerous journey in the hopes that they will be rescued. The vast majority of migrants arriving by boat are economic migrants who have no claim to asylum.

Out of the 100,000 who had arrived from Jan. 1 to Dec. 21 in 2022, some 86,000 were from countries at peace. Out of these, over 20,000 were from Egypt, and almost 18,000 were from Tunisia. Bangladesh came third with over 14,000 of its citizens among those who reached Italy through the Mediterranean Sea this past year.

On Wednesday last week, the Meloni government issued a decree that would require the self-proclaimed sea rescue boats to immediately head for a port after rescuing shipwrecked people, not continue on to help other vessels. Italy is also stepping up efforts to fine NGOs and potentially seize their ships if they violate these new rules.

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The NGO has responded that “Italy is therefore interfering with Germany’s freedom of navigation under Article 87 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea without any basis in international law by regulating the conduct of German ships in international waters and threatening them with fines and the seizure of ships.”

“The provisions aim to ensure the safety of persons rescued at sea in accordance with national as well as international law,” the paper said.

The Sea-Eye association rejected the decree issued by the cabinet of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

“The new decree of the Italian government is an invitation to drown. Forcing ships into port violates the duty to rescue should there be more people in distress at sea,” said Sea-Eye spokesman Oliver Kulikowski. He further announced that the decree would be opposed.

As Remix News previously reported, the Italian government is set to launch a new law that any NGO boat that picks up migrants in open waters under a country’s flag would require that country to accept those migrants.

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