Humanitarian ships grapple with Italy’s new rules on sea rescue operations

A week after dozens of migrants died when their boat capsized a few hundred metres off the Italian coast, humanitarian ships are grappling with a new "code of conduct" for rescues at sea. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right government in January forbade NGOs from carrying out "simultaneous" rescues at sea, even though ships are legally obliged to provide help during emergencies, according to international law.

Humanitarian ships, like the Ocean Viking, charted by the NGO SOS Méditerranée, which travel throughout the Mediterranean providing assistance to migrant boats, now face a much harder task.

"During our mission, we see boats that are not in condition to take on such a journey. When we find them, some of them have run out of fuel or are lost at sea," said Alessandro Porro, president of SOS Méditerranée in Italy.

Ships are now forced to respect the new Italian legislation concerning sea rescue operations: the country’s far-right government forbids them from carrying out "simultaneous" rescues even if vessels have the capacity to save several migrant boats at the same time.

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