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18th Sep 2021

Ireland agrees to relocate 10 migrants from Italy

  • Rescue efforts are mostly done by charity vessels (Photo: noborder network)

Ireland has agreed to take in ten people, out of the some 2,100 that landed on Italian shores last week as another 400 have been stuck on a boat for the past two days.

"Ireland has agreed to take 10 people in the context of relocation efforts from Italy," a European Commission spokesperson told reporters on Wednesday (19 May).

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The announcement comes amid a renewed standoff as a German rescue vessel near Italy has been demanding the disembarkation of over 400 people.

"We need a safe haven now!", it said in a tweet.

Last week, an estimated 2,100 people landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa from Tunisia and Libya in the span of 24 hours. Of those, around 600 are unaccompanied minors.

The commission is coordinating efforts with other EU states to help out Italy. Austria has already announced it will not help.

But overall numbers of migrants relocated from Italy and Malta to other EU states, coordinated by the commission, also remains relatively low.

Only around 1,500 have been transferred from Malta and close to 1,300 from Italy since 2018, it said, in an email.

The issue has caused misery for migrants and asylum seekers, some stuck on boats for weeks on end.

In one 2019 case, Malta refused to disembark some 356 migrants. They were stuck on a boat for two weeks until six EU states agreed to take them in.

Italy's former interior minister Matteo Salvini is also now facing trial after refusing to disembark 147 people in a separate case in 2019.

Past efforts to automatically transfer migrants across the bloc also failed, often pitting member states against one another.

Other promises have also been flaunted, including the 2019 Malta Declaration. It called for "a more predictable and efficient" system to disembark migrants.

The declaration was signed by France, Germany, Italy and Malta but failed to muster any significant additional support.

Italy is now hoping to revive that agreement, amid on-going talks with Germany and France.

Meanwhile some have also recently convened a contact group, said Portugal's foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva, speaking on behalf the EU presidency.

"[It aims] to enhance their cooperation in relation to operations carried out by private owned or operated vessels for the purpose of search and rescue activities," he told MEPs on Tuesday.

For its part, the commission wants what it describes as a temporary arrangement based on voluntary support from the member states.

Close to 685 migrants and asylum seeker hopefuls have died so far this year crossing the Mediterranean.

In April, some 130 lost their lives off the Libyan coast in a tragedy that NGOs and rescue charity boats say could have been avoided.

Those deaths were debated in the European Parliament on Tuesday.

Damien Carême, a French Green MEP, noted the same issue had been discussed in the plenary four times since 2019. "That is more than sevens hours of debate," he said.

Close to 1,500 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean since 2019, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration.

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