Italy’s right-wing government has approved new measures to fine charities who rescue asylum seekers at sea and impound their ships if they break new rules

A cabinet decree on Thursday said these ships should request a port and sail to it “without delay” after a rescue, rather than remain at sea looking for other boats in distress.

The missions of charities, or non-governmental organisations (NGOs), currently stay several days in the central Mediterranean,

completing different rescue operations and often taking hundreds of people on board. New measures could see charities who rescue asylum seekers at sea fined and their ships impounded.

The NGOs’ ships must also inform those on board that they can ask for international protection anywhere in the European Union, the decree said.

Captains breaching these rules risk fines of up to 50,000 euros ($53,175), and repeated violations can result in the impoundment of the vessel, it added.

Since Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni took office in October, the government has targeted the activities of sea rescue charities.