GENEVA - A move by Italian lawmakers to impose fines of up to €1 million on vessels and organizations carrying out search and rescue operations off the country’s coastline, sparked a new warning on Tuesday from the UN that the measure risks deterring future lifesaving efforts in the Mediterranean.

Speaking in Geneva, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Charlie Yaxley explained that the legislative move came at a time when other European countries had largely stopped sea rescue activities.

So far this year, nearly 4,000 people have made the treacherous crossing to Europe via the so-called Central Mediterranean Route from North Africa to Italy, Mr. Yaxley said, nearly 80 per cent less than in the first seven months of last year.

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