The controversial bill, signed by the president, sets fines of up to €50,000 for non-governmental organization (NGO) that bring refugees to Italy without obtaining permission from Rome.
Humanitarian groups described the new bill as a “declaration of war against the NGOs who are saving lives at sea.”
“The new decree is threatening legal principles and the duty of saving lives. It is like fining ambulances for carrying patients to the hospital,” said Claudia Lodesani, president of the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Italy.
The debilitating bill had been drafted by Italy’s hardliner Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Salvini, a notorious far-right politician, is a firm advocate of stiff anti-refugee measures not only in Italy, but also across the whole European continent.
Since taking office a year ago, Salvini has taken a tough stance on refugees and humanitarian groups that rescue and aid refugees shipwrecked and stranded in the Mediterranean Sea.
Rights groups have criticized Salvini’s anti-refugee efforts, warning that his attempts pose a potential threat to the lives and rights of refugees fleeing from war and persecution and seeking asylum elsewhere.
Salvini, who is the leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League party, had previously called on other far-right parties across Europe to form an alliance of like-minded groups to “defend their borders” against an influx of refugees into the continent.
Italy’s Salvini calls for European anti-refugee allianceThe hardline Italian interior minister says he seeks the formation of a Europe-wide alliance to “defend” the continent’s borders against an influx of refugees.
United Nations figures show that at least 500 people have died in 2018 as they were trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Some 2,853 also lost their lives in 2017.
More than 600,000 refugees in the past five years have reached Italy by risking their lives in the sea. Some 500,000 of them are still staying in the country.