Saturday

23rd Oct 2021

EU money can be used to offshore migrants on boats

  • Malta reportedly wants the EU to help pay to hold migrants on a large passenger ship moored at sea (Photo: Neil Howard)

EU purse strings are open for member states to hold migrants on boats offshore - under certain legal conditions.

The statement by the Brussels-executive on Tuesday (1 September) follows Maltese media reports that the government in Valletta intends to spend over €1m a month to detain migrants and refugees on a large Cypriot-flagged passenger ship.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The commission's comments are a general statement - not linked to the specifics of Malta's decision - noting that people on board must have access to asylum procedures in order to secure EU funds.

"This is also related to the place where the activity would take place, as EU asylum law does not apply in international waters," said a commission spokesperson, in an email.

The commission further noted that the money can only be used to finance food, medical assistance, and boat personnel.

The Maltese government did not respond as of writing on whether it intends to use EU funding to pay for the million-euro a month plan.

But earlier this week The Shift news, an independent media outlet in Malta, reported the government was trying to finance the project from the EU budget.

Floating hotspots

Similar ideas first broached in 2016 by the Italian government, to create so-called floating hotspots, where migrants are screened on boats, failed to gain much support.

Rome at the time proposed health, security and identity checks on the boats before bringing rescued people on shore for further asylum evaluation.

But case law at the European Court of Strasbourg complicated the proposals, given wider issues over detention and human rights.

It is not immediately clear if the Maltese government intends to carry out screenings, or offer those it detains on the boat access to asylum procedures.

Both Malta and Italy had earlier this year declared their ports unsafe given the pandemic.

But the scheme points to a wider a problem of how to parcel out people, initially rescued at sea, among EU states.

For over 10 days, some 350 people were left stranded on the charity rescue boat, Sea-Watch 4 until granted permission to disembark in Palermo, Sicily.

Over 2,000 relocated since mid-2018

Such incidents have been occurring on and off since 2018.

The European Commission is often called to help coordinate the subsequent relocations.

It says that over 2,000 people rescued at sea were transferred from Malta and Italy to other EU states and Norway between 27 June 2018 and 3 August 2020.

Of those, some 1,090 were transferred from Malta and 967 from Italy. Another 849 remain to be relocated from both.

Some 1,251 were transferred after disembarkations that took place in 2019, and 68 were transferred after disembarkations that took place in 2020.

"These applicants were transferred to Germany, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania," said the commission.

EU Commission seeks help as hundreds stuck off Malta coast

Hundreds of people who fled Libya have been stuck off the Maltese coast as the government in Valletta refuses to allow them to disembark. The European Commission is demanding EU states step in to help relocate them.

EU's migrants more at risk from coronavirus

Europe's migrants - including EU nationals living in other states - are more at risk of catching coronavirus or suffering from corona-linked poverty, a new study says.

EU states want more Belarus sanctions

EU heads of state and government on Friday, at a summit in Brussels, demanded more sanctions against Belarus "as a matter of urgency" and want the European Commission to tweak rules governing borders to tackle "state-sponsored smuggling".

News in Brief

  1. Russia's anti-vax campaign backfired, EU says
  2. China angered as MEPs call for Taiwan talks
  3. Emissions from La Palma volcano reach Brussels
  4. Body of eighth victim of Belarus border-crisis found in river
  5. Report: Syrian bank fiddling currency to evade EU sanctions
  6. Nato adopts plan to counter new Russian threats
  7. Alleged killer of British MP 'felt affiliated' to IS
  8. Coronavirus: Belgium returns to 'red' zone

Libya to get new EU-funded boats despite crimes

The EU Commission is to deliver three new 'P150' patrol boats to the Libyan coast guard, despite a recent UN report citing possible crimes against humanity at Libyan detention centres.

Dozen ministers want EU to finance border walls

Interior ministers from 12 member states are demanding the EU finance border-wall projects to stop migrants entering through Belarus, in a further push towards a fortress Europe.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. EU states want more Belarus sanctions
  2. Gas price spike exposes rift at EU summit
  3. Poland vows not to give into EU 'blackmail' at summit
  4. EU vows to uphold Paris climate ambition amid scientists' fears
  5. Commissions's new migration pact still seeking 'landing zone'
  6. Europe can't ignore Chinese encroachment in Ukraine
  7. Lithuania - where 'biodiversity funding' is cutting down trees
  8. Dutch lawyers take Frontex to EU court over pushbacks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us