Saturday

19th Oct 2019

Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues

  • The voluntary EU guidelines come amid escalating conflict in Libya and ahead of EP elections next month (Photo: MOAS.eu/Jason Florio)

Operational EU guidelines on how to get refugees off stranded rescue boats are set to be published next month.

Romanian EU presidency sources told EUobserver that it "plans to deliver a set of guidelines on the temporary arrangements by the end of May, at the latest."

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The efforts follow repeated episodes of NGO boat stand-offs with EU states unwilling to take in people rescued at sea.

The latest one saw 64 people stuck for almost two weeks off the Maltese coast on a boat operated by German NGO Sea-Eye.

The migrants were allowed to leave last weekend after the European Commission brokered a disembarkation deal with France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Portugal.

Malta had refused to allow the boat to dock, claiming it bore no responsibility.

The EU logjams come amid the risk that escalating conflict in Libya could prompt more people to try to sail to Europe.

"There are not only the 800,000 migrants potentially ready to leave, there would [also] be Libyans fleeing this war," if warlord Khalifa Haftar continued his assault on Tripoli, Libya's EU and UN-backed prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, warned earlier this week.

At the same time, distress calls made to the Libyan coast guard are routinely ignored or not picked up, according to Alarm Phone, an SOS-signal civil society network in Europe.

Seven distress calls in the past week were also made in the Aegean Sea, including one boat that was reportedly pushed back to Turkey by the Greek coast guard.

Another six calls were made from boats heading from Morocco to Spain.

Voluntary guidelines

The EU presidency plan will remain voluntary and seeks to build on a European Commission proposal to create "temporary arrangements" as a stop-gap measure until a permanent system is put in place.

The guidelines seek to balance solidarity and responsibility, Romania indicated, in an echo of previous reforms of EU asylum law, which fell by the wayside.

Bucharest's project comes ahead of European elections at the end of May in which far-right and anti-migrant populists are polling to increase their power in the European Parliament (EP).

The latest EP projection, out on Thursday (18 April), suggested the two largest groups, the centre-right European People's Party and the centre-left Socialists & Democrats, will no longer hold a majority.

But the EU anti-migrant-in-chief, Italian deputy prime minister and interior minister, Matteo Salvini, is on course to boost his cohort of MEPs.

Analysis

Bell tolls for EU asylum reforms

The cornerstone the EU's asylum reforms referred to by the shorthand as 'Dublin' could end up in the scrapheap following the European elections in May.

Opinion

Why a far-right surge won't change EU migration policy

The right-wing Eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), and European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) groups hold 151 out of 751 seats - even large gains are unlikely to give them a majority.

Hungary faces EU court for starving migrants

The European Commission is one step away from taking Hungary to court if it does not offer a credible explanation for why it denied detained migrants food in its transit zones along the Serbian border.

EU migrant boat plan fails to get extra support

Only seven out of 28 EU states have so far supported a draft plan to disembark and relocate migrants rescued in the central Mediterranean, following a meeting in Luxembourg.

EU agency kept in dark on forced flight abuse

Anti-torture witnesses told Germany but not the EU about abuse on a forced return flight to Afghanistan last year, posing questions on Europe's human rights safeguards.

News in Brief

  1. Macron: Nato's inability to react to Turkey a 'mistake'
  2. EU: US can expect counter measures after tariff move
  3. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  4. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  5. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  6. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  7. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  8. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products

Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

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