Should international NGO ships operate in the Mediterranean?

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Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has recently said that migrants picked up at sea by NGO rescue ships must be sent to the countries funding the operations. His comments came shortly after Berlin confirmed this week that it was financially supporting three German non-governmental organisations that operate in the Mediterranean and regularly bring migrants to Italy.

The Arguments:

Some in Italy’s right-wing government says that the NGO ships act as a magnet for migrants, they have even been described as a taxi service.

The government is angry that by offering the appearance of a safety net, more people might be encouraged to make the dangerous journey and that the real winners are people smugglers. It also takes issue with the fact that the boats are funded by countries who usually don’t end up receiving the migrants in their own ports. They say national coast guards are better equipped to handle the situation.

Supporters of the NGO boats believe that there is a universal duty to act to prevent some of the thousands of deaths occurring each year in the Mediterranean Sea and that saving human life must come before political considerations.

The Facts:

The EU’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum is a set of regulations and policies to create a fairer, efficient, and more sustainable migration and asylum process for the European Union. It aims to end the rows between different countries. The Pact, first proposed in September 2020, is designed to manage and normalise migration for the long term, providing certainty, clarity, and decent conditions for people arriving in the EU.

Before the Pact was agreed upon by Italy and Germany, the Italian Government threatened Germany with sending migrants picked up at sea by rescue ships to “countries that support the NGO charities”. The threat was issued shortly after Berlin confirmed that it was financially supporting three German NGOs that operated in the Mediterranean.

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