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The Italian Government’s decision to send military ships to Libya is an act of war against migrants

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The code of conduct for NGOs operating in the Mediterranean threatens the lives of thousands of people and constitutes an unprecedented attack on the principles that inspire the work of humanitarian organizations.

EMERGENCY has been active for years in assisting migrants, refugees and IDPs in countries at war as well as in Italy; Although not currently involved in search and rescue operations at sea, EMERGENCY considers this code of conduct that has been imposed by the Italian Government on humanitarian organizations engaged in SAR operations unacceptable.

In particular, the request to allow access by military personnel who are allegedly armed is in fact an outright violation of the humanitarian principles that form the pillars of NGOs action around the world.

This decision risks creating a dangerous precedent that could be adopted in other policy areas. For years, we have been able to adopt the principle that our hospitals and healthcare facilities are open to all those in need of assistance and where no armed person may have access. This has never prevented governments and institutions from monitoring the efficiency and transparency of our work.

This code of conduct is the fig leaf of a Europe that continues to prove unable to handle this crisis with responsibility and humanity. The involvement of NGOs in search and rescue at sea was necessary primarily to fill the gap left by European governments, who have the primary responsibility for these operations.

The only answer seems to be, once again, a military response, both in the Mediterranean and in the countries of origin and transit. Increasingly, Italian and European funds for development projects are diverted to strengthening African security systems and military equipment in order to curb migration flows. In addition, to protect its borders, Europe does not hesitate to turn a blind eye to serious human rights violations, in Libya and beyond.

The sending of military ships to Libya, approved today by the Italian Parliament, is an obvious denial of the fundamental human rights of those who flee from war and poverty. Thousands of people will be left in an unstable country and will be exposed to violations and violence without any protection. Only with a massive commitment to peace, cooperation and development policies will we be able to address the root causes of migration. Only by opening legal and secure access channels for those seeking shelter in our continent will we be able to ensure respect for human rights by stopping the plague of human trafficking.

Only by continuing with the open integration policies launched by the Italian government in recent years, even without real support from the European Union, will it be possible to ensure the management of migratory flows in a long term, sustainable manner.