Italy has passed a law to fine any boat rescuing refugees from sea up to €50,000 (£44,000), despite hundreds having died en route this year.

Those who repeatedly violate the law risk having their boats seized.

The regulation also allows undercover police investigations of possible trafficking operations and approves electronic eavesdropping on suspected people smugglers.

“I think we have approved a step forward for the security of this country,” said Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister and deputy prime minister who has further tightened his country’s limitations on refugee rescue boats.

Italy’s cabinet approved the measure two weeks after the anti-immigrant League triumphed in European parliamentary elections.