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LONDON - 31 July 2017: Aid workers have accused the EU of “wilfully letting people drown in the Mediterranean” as they face being forced to suspend rescue missions for refugees attempting the world’s deadliest sea crossing, The Independent reported.
“The EU is wilfully letting people drown in the Mediterranean by refusing to create a legal means of safe passage and failing to even provide adequate resources for maritime rescue,” said German charity Sea-Watch CEO Axel Grafmanns.
Italy is attempting to impose a code of conduct on NGOs operating ships in the search and rescue zone off the coast of Libya, which is now the main launching point for migrants trying to reach Europe on smugglers’ boats.
Humanitarian groups have argued the code will impede their work by banning the transfer of refugees to larger ships, which allows vessels to continue rescues, and forcing them to allow police officers on board.
A revised code of conduct is expected to be presented by the Italian interior ministry on Monday, following meetings between officials and NGOs.
The 11-point plan, which has been approved by the European Commission and border agency Frontex, could see any groups refusing to sign up denied access to Italian ports or forbidden from carrying out rescues.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has staff on two rescue ships, said it was engaging with Italian authorities in an “open and constructive way” over the proposed code but had serious concerns over several clauses.
Amnesty International characterised the code of conduct as part of a “concerted smear campaign” against NGO rescue ships, which has culminated in a far-right group calling itself Defend Europe sending its own vessel to “monitor” operations in the Mediterranean Sea.