Migrant rescue ship captains could face $57,000 fines in Italian crackdown

The rescue ship Aquarius is one of several NGO vessels that could be affected by the decree.

(CNN)Migrant rescue ships docking in Italy without authorization could soon face fines of up to $57,000, as part of a government crackdown that the United Nations warns violates international law.

Under the decree -- promoted by populist Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini -- the captain, owner and operator of vessels entering Italian waters without authorization will face fines of between €10,000 ($11,300) and €50,000 ($57,000), the politician told reporters after it was adopted on Tuesday.
Salvini, who swept into office on the back of his anti-migrant policies, did not mention migrant rescue ships specifically. But the decree is a clear attempt to deter such vessels -- which pluck thousands of migrants from the Mediterranean each year -- from docking in Italian ports.
    Matteo Salvini, Italy's Deputy Prime Minister and leader of right-wing League party.
    The decree added that vessels repeatedly entering Italian waters without authorization would be impounded.
    The decree will now go before Parliament for final signoff. But with Salvini's far-right League party and its coalition partner the Five Star Movement holding a majority, it is likely to pass easily.

    Decree a threat to 'human rights'

    But UN investigators said the decree would "seriously undermine the human rights of migrants."
    In a letter sent to the Italian government in May, a panel of human rights experts condemned the then-proposed decree, saying it "represents yet another political attempt to criminalize humanitarian actors delivering life-saving services."
    Such decrees stigmatize migrants as "possible terrorists, traffickers and smugglers," without providing evidence, the experts said. "We are concerned that this type of rhetoric will further increase the climate of hatred and xenophobia" in Italy.
    In response, the Italian government doubled down on its approach, telling the UN in a letter that the organization showed an "astonishing mental narrowness," according to a report by state new