Rome, July 17 - The European Commission and EU border agency Frontex at the weekend approved a code of conduct drafted by Italy for ships run by non-governmental organisations rescuing migrants in the central Mediterranean off Libya. The code is intended to help stem a ceaseless tide of arrivals that has strained Italian reception capacity to the limit. The code of conduct sets 11 rules. These include a ban on phoning "to facilitate the departure of boats carrying migrants", the obligation to allow police aboard and a requirement to have a technical certification to carry out rescues. Those who refuse to sign the code may not get authorisation to access Italian ports. The first rule is the "absolute prohibition" for humanitarian ships to enter Libyan waters, which can only be reached "if there is a clear danger for human life at sea". The NGOs are then asked not to make phone calls or send luminous signals to facilitate the departure and the embarkation of boats carrying migrants, with "the obvious intention of not facilitating contacts with traffickers". Among the other obligations is that of not transporting migrants on other ships, be they Italian or belonging to international organisations, except in an emergency situation. And after rescues the NGO ships "will have to complete the operation by taking the migrants to a safe port". They are further asked not to hinder search and rescue (SAR) operations by the Libyan Coast Guard, to make known the funding sources for their rescue activities, and to notify their flag-flying country's maritime coordination centre of the intervention, "so that this State is informed on the ship's activities and can assume responsibility also for the purposes of maritime safety". Italy's partners provisionally agreed to the code as part of efforts to share the burden of the central Mediterranean migrant emergency.
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di Giovanni Pastore