FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 file photo, a baby is loaded into the rescue vessel of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, after being rescued in the Central Mediterranean Sea at 45 miles (72 kilometers) from Al Khums, Libya. A judge in Sicily has dropped an investigation against two member of the Spanish aid group Proactiva Open Arms deriving from a tense high-seas standoff last year when the crew refused to hand over 218 migrants rescued at sea to the Libyan coast guard. Proactiva welcomed the decision to drop the investigation into criminal association and aiding illegal migration Wednesday, calling it ‘’an additional step toward the truth.’’ The group stated that it has always operated according to international roles. (AP Photo/Olmo Calvo, File)

UN tells Italy proposed decree violates migrants' rights

May 19, 2019 - 7:00 am

ROME (AP) — U.N. human rights investigators have told Italy that a proposed decree formalizing the closure of Italian ports to aid groups that rescue migrants at sea violates international law.

In a letter to Italy's government, the investigators said the decree appears to be "yet another political attempt to criminalize search and rescue operations" that "further intensifies the climate of hostility and xenophobia against migrants."

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a hard-line populist, has proposed the decree ahead of the European Parliament elections this week, where nationalist, anti-migrant parties are hoping to make strong gains.

The letter from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says the measures would violate migrants' human rights, which are enshrined in U.N. conventions. It said Italy is obliged to rescue migrants in distress and cannot impede others from doing so.

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