Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni announced new measures against human traffickers Thursday, after holding a cabinet meeting in the seaside town of Cutro, the site of a recent shipwreck that claimed at least 72 lives, APA reports citing Xinhua.
She said the cabinet had signed off on a new migration flow management decree featuring harsher penalties for human smugglers and more effective expulsion practices.
"The fact that the entire Cabinet of Ministers traveled to hold the meeting here and now is proof of how serious we take this subject," Meloni said.
She said the new decree makes it a felony if traffickers cause death or serious injury while smuggling migrants to European shores, and such crimes will be punishable by up to 30 years in prison. However, the new rules will not apply retroactively to the four traffickers arrested in connection with the Feb. 26 tragedy or anyone associated with the wave of arrivals in recent days.
Meloni said she believed such policies would act as a deterrent against human trafficking.
"We respond to what happened with more firmness," she said. "We will do everything that needs to be done to defeat these criminals."
The new decree also sets up a system of quotas for legal work permits, but these would only be available for citizens of countries that "cooperate" with Italy on discouraging illegal departures from their territory.
According to media reports, there was another shipwreck on Wednesday, leaving one woman dead, while 20 people were saved and brought safely to shore. This ship was coming from Tunisia.
Between Wednesday and Thursday, there were 17 landings involving more than 1,000 migrants on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, according to media reports.