Italy to Fine Migrant Ships €1 Million, Arrest Captains, Impound Vessels
Leader Matteo Salvini's bill passes to block ships docking in Italian ports
Italy's populist leader Matteo Salvini has scored a major victory after passing a bill that introduces tough new laws to stops migrant rescue ships from docking in Italian ports.
Under the new laws, non-governmental organization (NGO) ships carrying migrants that attempt to dock in Italy without permission will be fined up to €1 million (USD $1.12M), the captains will be arrested and the vessels impounded.
The move aims to crack down on migrant rescue ships who pick up mostly-African asylum seekers in the Mediterranean Sea and try to take them to Italy.
The bill was pushed by Interior Minister Salvini and his government won the vote by 160 to 57.
The passing of the bill further bolsters the strong position of Italy's populist leader.
Mr. Salvini has made combating mass-migration from North Africa one of his main priorities since coming to power last summer.
Salvini would have had to resign had his bill not won.
The proposal had already been passed by the lower house and became law just a couple of days before parliament closed on Wednesday for the summer recess.
Some Five Star Movement (M5S) politicians have expressed concerns about the order, and some of its senators didn't back it during Monday’s vote.
Confidence votes are often used by Italian governments as a way of speeding legislation through parliament, truncating debate and sweeping away opposition amendments.
Salvini has clashed repeatedly with humanitarian groups that pick up migrants off the coast of Libya with the aim of bringing them to Italy, preventing them from docking until other EU countries agree to take in most of them.
Germany's interior minister has told Italian leader #MatteoSalvini to open Italy's borders to ships carrying #migrants from Africa that the country is refusing entry to.— Neon Nettle (@NeonNettle) August 5, 2019
READ MORE: https://t.co/Sag2OV4bG2#OpenBorders
In June, the German vessel Sea Watch 3, captained by Carola Rackete, was seized when it entered the port of Lampedusa without permission.
Rackete was arrested and later freed from house arrest, prompting Salvini to denounce the judge who issued the ruling.
“The security decree, with more powers to police forces, more border checks and more men to arrest Mafiosi, is law,” Salvini tweeted on Monday.
“I thank you, Italians, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.”