Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini on Thursday launched a crackdown on the German charity Sea Watch whose ship on Wednesday rescued 52 migrants off the coast of Libya.
Salvini, who is also interior minister and leads the powerful right-wing League party in the coalition, issued a decree ordering law enforcement authorities to take all necessary measures to prevent the entry into or transit through Italian waters of the Sea Watch 3 ship.
Reacting on Twitter, Sea Watch said: “Sea Watch won’t disembark survivors in Libya — Tripoli is not a port of safety.
“It is a crime to forcibly return rescued people to a country at war, where they face unlawful imprisonment and torture. Italy promoting these atrocities and the EU being complicit is outrageous.”
On Tuesday, Salvini said the 18-article decree would bring fines of up to 50,000 euros ($57,000) for the captain, owner and operator of a vessel “entering Italian territorial waters without authorisation”.
Salvini has seen his popularity soar in the last year with a hard line against migrants which has included closing ports to rescue vessels.