Monday

19th Feb 2018

EU naval mission leads to more migrant drownings, says report

  • Overcrowded rubber dinghies increases risks (Photo: Frontex)

The EU naval operation Sophia in the Mediterranean, which aims to crack down on people smugglers, has resulted in an upsurge of deaths, according to a UK parliamentary report.

The inquiry, published on Wednesday (12 July) by the cross-party House of Lords, says Sophia's sinking of boats has led to smugglers sending people on more unseaworthy vessels "resulting in more deaths at sea."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The military naval mission has, so far, removed over 420 boats from the sea and apprehended 109 smugglers and traffickers since late 2015. Around 2,206 people have died in the attempt to cross from Libya towards Italy since January 2017.

Similar concerns over drownings had already been raised last year when a spokeswoman at the EU's border agency, Frontex, told EUobserver that rubber boats were becoming more overcrowded following the Sophia boat seizures.

She noted last August that the number of people travelling on 10-12 metre-long rubber dinghies had, at the time, risen by more than quarter. Amnesty International last week had come to similar conclusions, noting that less-safe rubber dinghies are now standard given the seizure of the more stable wooden boats.

Although Sophia has saved over 30,000 people, the UK inquiry noted its core mandate - to stop the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks - has broadly failed to deliver, given the number of people still trying to leave Libya.

Instead, the UK inquiry said that any meaningful EU action against people smuggling networks inside Libya first requires a unified government that is able to able to provide security across the country.

The high numbers of people leaving Libya on unseaworthy boats has forced NGOs and charities to operate closer to the Libyan coastline.

People rescued end up disembarked at Italian ports, triggering a backlash from Rome, as accusations circulate that the presence of NGOs near Libya has become a lure for more migrants.

Italy has asked for other EU states to open their ports but received short shrift from EU interior ministers last week at a meeting in Tallinn.

Italian authorities, with the backing of the European Commission, are now drafting a controversial code of conduct for NGOs, which aims to curb their rescue efforts near the Libyan coast.

A leaked draft of the code bars NGO vessels from entering Libyan territorial waters to undertake rescues. Lights to signal their location to vessels at imminent risk of sinking will also be banned, among other plans.

But Iverna McGowan, director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, says the code will only further endanger lives.

"Perversely, the proposed code of conduct for NGOs saving lives in the Mediterranean could put lives at risk,” she said in a statement.

Tug of war

The tug of war over rescues - between those carried out by authorities or by NGOs - only continues to escalate.

On Tuesday, Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri met with Italian authorities, along with a handful of other EU states, to discuss reinforcing the agency's surveillance operations in the central Mediterranean.

Frontex wants to expand its multipurpose aerial surveillance (MAS) operation, which involves using a plane to stream real-time video and other data to the agency's headquarters in Warsaw.

A hearing on search and rescues is also being held on Wednesday at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Italy to impose tough rules on NGOs

Italian authorities will release a code of conduct for NGOs, which prevents them, among other things, from entering Libyan territorial waters. A draft copy of the code says NGOs will be banned from Italian ports on failure to comply.

EU backs Italy on NGO rescues

The European Commission has said that the EU and Italy merely want to “better organise” migrant rescues in the Central Mediterranean.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  2. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  4. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  5. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  6. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  8. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  9. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  10. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  11. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  12. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”

Latest News

  1. Poland shows no sign of concessions to Commission
  2. Spain's De Guindos to be ECB vice-president
  3. Conservative 'buccaneering Brexit' narrative unrealistic
  4. MPs demand Council become more transparent
  5. Eurogroup starts process to pick new ECB chiefs
  6. 'Fact of life': some EU funding in new tech will get lost
  7. EU asks charities to explain anti-abuse measures
  8. ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  2. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  3. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  6. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  8. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  10. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?
  11. European Jewish CongressEJC President Warns Europe as Holocaust Memory Fades
  12. European Free AlllianceNo Justice From the Spanish Supreme Court Ruling