In the wake of a tragic shipwreck off Italy’s southern coast that resulted in the deaths of 72 mostly Middle Eastern migrants, Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni has declared war on human traffickers responsible for continuous flows of illegal migration, announcing prison sentences of up to thirty years.
Italy’s first female prime minister announced the new decree aimed at tackling illegal immigration on Friday, March 9th, during remarks delivered at a special meeting of her cabinet in the Calabrian town of Cutro, the scene of the boat disaster that took place on February 26th, the Milan-based newspaper Il Giornale reports.
While speaking at a press conference that followed the meeting, Meloni told reporters that the center-right coalition government that she leads is going on the offensive, declaring that it intends on broadcasting “the message that it does not pay to enter Italy illegally.” She also promised to track down people smugglers “across the globe” and bring them to justice.
Additionally, she announced ministers had unanimously agreed to make penalties for people smuggling considerably more harsh via the introduction of a new decree which focuses specifically on tougher punishments for those traffickers who contribute to bodily harm or death of people being transported illegally.
Per the new decree, the government can sentence convicted human traffickers 5 to 16 years in prison for transporting illegal migrants, and fine them €15,000 for each person they’re smuggling. Moreover, if a migrant suffers bodily harm or death along the journey, smugglers will face between 10 and 20 years in prison, respectively. Prison sentences increase to between 20 and 30 years if more than one migrant loses his life during a trip.
Seated beside two deputy premiers, Matteo Salvini and Antonio Tajani, as well as the Minister of Justice Carlo Nordio, Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, and Secretary of the Council of Ministers Alfredo Mantovano, Prime Minister Meloni told the press:
Our response to what happened is a policy of one of greater firmness … If anyone thinks that the events of February 26th have led us to change the government’s line, they are very wrong. We confirm our line … and the fact that there is no more responsible policy [than one that] will interrupt the trafficking of smugglers: we want to fight the slavery of the third millennium represented by these criminal organizations. We don’t want to repeat the approach of those who have left the smugglers undisturbed over the years, we will do everything.
Giorgia Meloni also signaled that the government may be considering reintroducing the migration and security law package, named after former interior minister Matteo Salvini, which was first introduced in 2018 before being abolished by the subsequent, leftist-establishment government. Among a long list of laws that clamped down on illegal migration, the Salvini decree closed ports to unauthorized civilian vessels.