Italy’s new sea migrant policy worries ICS

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has said that it was becoming “increasingly concerned” about the Italian government’s recently introduced policy to close its ports to migrants rescued at sea by NGO and, apparently, commercial ships.

ICS urged all European Union leaders to address its concerns so that the policy of prompt and predictable disembarkation – consistent with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) principles – could be fully maintained.

The ICS said that it now understood that commercial ships, even those which had been requested by the Italian Rescue Co-ordination Centre to pick up people in distress, had also been refused permission by the Italian government to disembark in Italy the people rescued.

ICS secretary general Peter Hinchliffe said that “if correct, this refusal by Italy to allow prompt and predicable disembarkation from merchant ships, which are complying with their obligations under maritime law, could have serious humanitarian consequences for the safety and welfare of hundreds if not thousands of distressed people”. He also noted that “if the policy is extended this would also have significant implications for the movement of trade throughout the Mediterranean”. But the industry’s immediate concern is humanitarian and for the welfare and dignity of those people rescued at sea, Hinchliffe concluded.