The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has expressed its concern over the Government of Italy’s decision to shut its ports to migrants rescued by vessels of humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
According to ICS, the decision could have serious implications on both the rescued people and the merchant ships.
The movement of trade across the Mediterranean Sea is also expected to be impacted, as the merchant ships would have to get involved in a greater number of rescues.
ICS’ concern follows the recent incident of denying access by Italy’s newly elected government to a rescue boat carrying more than 600 migrants, including 123 minors, 11 small children and seven pregnant women, among others.
The vessel, which carried migrants from 26 countries in Africa, was operated by European humanitarian groups and international humanitarian medical NGO Doctors Without Borders, reported nytimes.com.
It kept sailing back and forth for hours before Spain came forward and allowed the boat to anchor at one of its ports.
ICS secretary general Peter Hinchliffe said: “The primary concern of shipowners is humanitarian.
“In the interest of protecting safety of life at sea, ICS is therefore calling on all EU Member States to urgently address the legitimate concerns raised by the Italian Government about the large number of rescued persons arriving in Italy, in order that the policy of prompt and predictable disembarkation – consistent with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) principles – can be fully maintained, not just in Italy but in other EU Member States too.”
Since the aggravation of the issue of migrant crisis in the Mediterranean three years ago, more than 50,000 people have already been rescued by merchant ships, with many more rescued by military vessels and boats operated by humanitarian NGOs.