Migrants: Church leaders criticize Italy for tightening its grip on NGOs

(Crux) At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis visited the Italian island of Lampedusa where hundreds of migrants and refugees arrived every day after risking their lives at sea. Today Italy struggles with those very same migration flows that show no signs of slowing as political unrest and environmental crises continue to plague the African continent and the Middle East.

Anti-migration sentiment has been rising on the Italian peninsula, especially in right-wing populist parties who have recently criticized NGOs that rescue refugees in the Mediterranean Sea of allegedly colluding with North African traffickers to bring even more migrants into the country in order to make a profit.

Church leaders have stepped up in defense of the NGOs, after the Italian government, in an effort to exercise further control and monitoring, asked nine NGOs to sign a ‘code of conduct’ comprised of 13 points in early August. Among the most contested issues in the code was that of allowing the Italian Coast Guard to board the organizations’ boats for routine checks. [More]