An Italian coastguard vessel flanks the Sea Watch rescue ship off Sicily’s coast in January 2019 [File: Salvatore Cavalli/Associated Press]

Rome, Italy – The Italian government has come under fire after passing a “security decree” that aims to curb migration by punishing charity search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, despite repeated warnings – including from the United Nations – that the new rules violate the rights of refugees and rescuers alike.

Parts of the recently introduced measure are unrelated to migration, but instead focus on “public order and security”, increasing penalties for assault on members of the security forces and envisaging fines of up to 6,000 euros ($6,700) for people who hide their faces to avoid being identified during political demonstrations.

But the decree,

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