Saturday

10th Dec 2022

EU Parliament wants Europe to take lead on sea-rescues

The European Parliament wants Europe to carry out search-and-rescues at sea, and not leave it only to NGOs.

"We need a European search-and-rescue mechanism at sea," said EU parliament president David Sassoli on Monday (14 June).

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"It is no longer acceptable to leave this responsibility only to NGOs," he noted, at an inter-parliamentary conference on migration and asylum.

The comments came as over 400 people were recently rescued by the Norwegian-flagged ship Geo Barents, a humanitarian ship operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

A possible standoff is now underway as MSF seeks a safe port to disembark. The NGO says Malta has denied their request.

Those not rescued are often returned to Libya.

A spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration says over 1,000 people were intercepted over the weekend.

"More people have been returned so far this year than in the whole of 2020," said the spokesperson, in a tweet.

This comes on top of the 557 people intercepted and returned to Libya at the start of the month.

But Sassoli's comments also follow a wider crackdown on charity and NGO vessels operating at sea.

National authorities have initiated some 50 administrative and criminal proceedings against crew members or vessels since 2018.

Figures from December showed that out of the 15 NGO assets, only the Aita Mari and Open Arms vessels were in operation. MSF has since launched its Geo Barents operation, in mid-May.

Over 800 people have died so far this year in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Sassoli's proposal comes ahead of an EU summit later this month where migration will be discussed.

But those talks are likely to narrow in on the external dimension of migration, and of shoring up support for origin and transit countries, to help prevent departures.

That includes using visas and trade as leverage to secure deals for returns, readmission and reintegration.

"The external dimension cannot be an accessory, cannot be an afterthought, it is has to be integrally interwoven at the heart of our overall thinking," said European Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas, speaking at the same conference.

"It is not a coincidence that next week the leaders of the European Union and the upcoming European Council will have exactly the same discussion," he added.

German Bundestag president Wolfgang Schäuble, also at the conference, said the EU will have no choice but to partner up with despotic regimes.

"We will only make progress if we cooperate with regimes which do not meet the same democratic standards," he said, noting the EU will have to assume the associated moral costs.

"The suffering and death on these migration routes are things we should not turn a blind eye to," he added.

Greece shouldn't have to integrate refugees, minister says

Greek migration minister Notis Mitarachi says Athens should not be required to integrate refugees, because it is provides other services such as border protection. Instead, he says they should be free to move to other EU states.

Ireland agrees to relocate 10 migrants from Italy

Last week, over 2,000 people arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Efforts to relocate some of them to other member states is proving tricky. Meanwhile, another 400 have been stuck on a boat for the past two days.

EU rejects UN blame for migrant sea deaths

Last week, the UN high commissioner for human rights said the EU and its member states are partly responsible for making the central Mediterranean more dangerous for asylum-seeker hopefuls. The EU rejects that - despite evidence suggesting otherwise.

Libyan detention centres must end, EU says

The EU has trained and equipped the Libyan Coast Guard. Those intercepted are then returned. Now Turkey has taken the lead, raising the stakes of possible leverage over the European Union as Ankara takes control of the route.

Europe needs to help sea rescues, say NGOs

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, along with Ecre, a Brussels-base NGO, have proposed a plan to increase sea rescues. The call comes ahead of an EU summit later this month among EU heads of state and government.

On board with SOS Méditerranée

EU talks migration over dinner, as NGO rescue-ship sets sail

Some 30 crew members boarded the Ocean Viking rescue ship in the port of Marseille on Wednesday, a full day ahead of an EU summit in Brussels where migration will be discussed over the afternoon and dinner.

Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Terezija Gras from Croatia, Dutchman Hans Leijtens, and Frontex's current interim executive director Aija Kalnaja, are all competing for a job left vacant by the resignation of Fabrice Leggeri.

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