Reportage. Thursday’s vote was certainly not a surprise. Whenever there was a vote in Parliament, a pretext was always found to continue funding it. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Italian deputies vote to continue support for the violent Libyan ‘Coast Guard’

The Italian Chamber of Deputies gave the green light to a bill to fund international missions, including the controversial “page 48” on the training of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. The main text of the resolution of the majority passed on Thursday with 438 votes in favor, two against and two abstentions. For the part concerning Libya, on which they proceeded with a separate vote, 34 deputies voted against, from M5S, LeU, +Europa and the PD. Twenty-two abstained, including the Italia Viva group.

Thursday’s vote was certainly not a surprise. It was highly unlikely that Italy would finally decide to put an end to its collaboration with the coast guards in Tripoli, given that up to now, whenever there was a vote in Parliament, a pretext was always found to continue funding it. Last year, the government reassured the deputies that changes to the Italy-Libya Memorandum would be discussed and guarantees would be demanded for the respect of the human rights of migrants. However, these changes have been left on hold.

This year, an amendment by the Democratic Party was approved in the Foreign and Defense Committees, which bound the government to “check the conditions for ending this mission at the earliest possibility,” a formula that suggests that the European Union might train the Libyan militias instead.

For the PD, the amendment was their way of getting out of a situation that had become difficult, even more so after the images of the Libyan patrol boat—one of those given to Tripoli by Italy—chasing, shooting and attempting to ram a boat full of migrants. However, this solution did not convince the internal opposition within the party: seven deputies, Orfini, Boldrini, Raciti, Rizzo Nervi, Gribaudo, Pini and Bruno Bossio, voted against it. “Once again, there were only a few of us, too few. Once again, a terrible choice, a terrible day,” was Orfini’s comment.

In the debate that preceded the vote, the +Europa deputy Riccardo Magi addressed the PD deputies directly: “I’ll say this to my PD colleagues: there is nothing to ‘check,’ everything is already known about what’s happening in Libya, including at the hands of the Coast Guard, which feeds a circuit of violence, kidnappings, unlimited detention and rapes.”

Erasmo Palazzotti of LeU said: “This mission is part of a strategy whose central point is the outsourcing of borders. And today, we must ask ourselves if continuing to finance human rights violations is a morally acceptable price to pay.”

Now the bill goes to the Senate, where it will be voted on Tuesday, July 20, in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees. The Senate floor vote is scheduled for July 28. Here as well, no surprises are expected: those opposed to the Libyan mission are LeU and a small group of PD senators. On Thursday, during a meeting of PD senators, Tommaso Nannicini and Francesco Verducci were critical of the mission, and Vincenzo D’Arienzo is also against it: “Italy is continuing to cooperate with those who are carrying out rejections, violating human rights and committing crimes against humanity,” said Verducci, commenting on the result of the vote in the Chamber.

Criticism also came from the NGOs, which called the amendment presented by the PD “smoke and mirrors”: “Asking Europe to perform the rejections in our place does not change the heart of the matter in the slightest,” was the position of DWB, Oxfam and Arci, among others. “If the PD really wants to show that it is different, it should ask the EU to field a search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean.”

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