Cabinet approves controversial new security decree

Cabinet approves controversial new security decree

Italy's populist government on Tuesday approved a new security decree that fines captains and owners of ships which enter Italian territory without the permission of its authorities - including migrant rescue boats - measures that earlier drew criticism from the United Nations.

Italy's hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini said the decree, which steps up policing and further cracks down on migrants, was a "step forward". The decree enters into force immediately and must be voted into law by the parliament within 60 days.

Italy is obliged to rescue migrants in distress and cannot impede others from doing so, six UN experts wrote last month in a letter criticising the planned new security decree. Nor can migrants be sent back to countries like war-torn Libya where they are in danger, the missive states

The UN experts, who urged officials to reply to their letter, asked for the withdrawal of two previous directives denying access to Italian ports to ships operated by NGOs that have rescued migrants off Libya's coasts.

The letter sparked a furious reaction from Salvini, who wrote to Italy's premier Giuseppe Conte and foreign minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi demanding that the government take "a tough stance" against the UN experts.