SOS Humanity, a charitable search and rescue organization, Monday announced that it is taking legal action against the Italian government for failing to allow 35 migrants aboard an SOS Humanity rescue vessel to disembark. The Italian government denied the disembarkation because of an Italian Ministers for Interior and Infrastructure decree.Italian authorities Saturday permitted SOS Humanity’s rescue vessel, Humanity 1, to enter the port at Catania. In accordance with the latest decree on irregular migration issued by the right-wing coalition Italian government, authorities conducted health checks on the rescue vessel’s passengers. Italian authorities permitted pregnant women, mothers, young children and vulnerable people ashore. However, 35 people classified as “healthy” were not permitted to disembark. Italian authorities then asked the captain to leave the port. The captain refused, citing his duty under maritime law “to complete the rescue of people in distress by disembarking all survivors in the port of Catania as a safe place.”The decree, issued last month, prohibits rescue vessels from stopping in Italian territorial waters “beyond the time necessary for rescue and assistance operations for people in emergency conditions and in precarious health conditions.”In a Facebook post, Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini stated, “[W]e will guarantee rescue and assistance, but we prohibit foreign [nongovernmental organizations] from stopping in Italian territorial waters.” In May 2021, Salvini escaped trial for the decision to block 119 from disembarking onto Italian shores in 2019.SOS Humanity considers all passengers deserving of a safe port under international law, stating, “[I]t is unlawful to only allow a selected few of the survivors to disembark.” SOS Humanity argues that the Italian government’s decision to turn back 35 survivors seeking safety violates protections in both the European Convention on Human Rights and the Geneva Refugee Convention.SOS Humanity will initiate a fast-track proceeding to guarantee the right to access a formal asylum procedure on land. It calls for the 35 survivors to be disembarked immediately.

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