Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni met his Libyan counterpart Fayez Al Sarraj in Rome on Monday hoping to win agreement on a deal to block Libya’s migrant smugglers, but how much leverage Mr Al Sarraj has back home is an open question. Italy has reaffirmed its willingness to stop the migrant flux, especially after the rescuing of 3,000 of them last week. Italy and Libya had concluded an agreement to repatriated Libyan’s illegal migrants in counterpart of an financial aid of E200 millions from the EU to implement refugees camps in Libya.
Interior ministers mainly from the central Mediterranean region met in Rome on Monday to ramp up efforts to curb migration from Libya amid a sharp rise in the number of people trying to cross to Europe. In front of emergency, they had tried to find an agreement on Libyan’s migration, following the model of the very controversial EU-Turkey agreement. Libya’s UN-backed unity government, ask for an economical plan of $860 million to manage the migrant crisis. This concept of stop migrants before they reach international water is controversial, indeed, some case of rape, violences, tortures had been reported from Libya; as denounced by the journal The Guardian last weeks, keeping migrants in Libya could have a more dramatic effect than bring them on European continent.
Two years ago, August 30, 2014, MOAS (Offshore Migrant Aid Station) has conducted its first relief operation in the Mediterranean, when about 250 Syrians and Palestinians were rescued. Established after humanitarian disaster in the Strait of Sicily on October 2013, this NGO has been witness to the terrible humanitarian tragedy that is still ongoing. Now, MOAS promotes the campaign #SafeAndLegalRoutes which “are the only conceivable way forward has been cemented by our experiences on the maritime crossings. We call – said MOAS statement – , therefore, on the international community not to allow this unnecessary loss of life to become ‘the new normal’ when it is so clearly avoidable.MOAS was founded as a disaster relief organisation, the first private search and rescue NGO of its kind in the Mediterranean, designed to mitigate the deadly consequences of the migration crisis. “
MOAS rescued about 25,000 people in the last two years: The horrors MOAS has been witness to only serve to reinforce our belief that no one deserves to die at sea. Today, with two years’ experience on the frontlines of this, the most devastating humanitarian catastrophe of our generation, MOAS calls for the creation of safe and legal alternatives to the deadly sea crossing, to ensure that those seeking to pursue their right to asylum are able to do so without risking their lives”.
This emergency has not already ended as demonstrated by 6,500 people saved on August 29 by MOAS.
Photo Credit: ©MOAS.eu/jason florio 2016 all rights reserved
More support to refugees through shelter, food, health, water and sanitation. Daily exchange of information between countries and Brussels. More reception capacity in Greece and in other Balkan countries. Borders management and stabilization thanks to Frontex reinforcement between Bulgaria and Turkey and 400 police officers to Slovenia. These are the topics of the deal approved by the head of 11 EU States and 3 non-Eu within European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during summit about the Western Balkan Migration Route in Bruxelles on October 25.
In the first phase of summit, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic and Bulgaria were initially opposed to EU directives, especially Orban who wants to go on closing its borders. However, before the meeting, Juncker said: “Countries affected should not only talk about each other and at each other, but also with each other. Neighbours should work together not against each other. Refugees need to be treated in a humane manner along the length of the Western Balkans route to avoid a humanitarian tragedy in Europe. I am therefore pleased that today we were able to jointly agree on a 17-point plan of pragmatic and operational measures to ensure people are not left to fend for themselves in the rain and cold “.
And so leaders representing Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia agreed to improve cooperation and step up consultation between the countries along the route and decided on pragmatic operational measures that can be implemented as of tomorrow to tackle the refugee crisis in the region.
Poland turn to right after Eurosceptic victory, as borders closing to refugees on the part of Hungary and several Eastern Europe, combined to over 650,000 people, especially from Syria, arrived by sea during this year, demand a strong answer from EU Member states.
These are all the deal:
Permanent exchange of information
1. Nominating contact points within 24 hours to allow daily exchanges and coordination to achieve the gradual, controlled and orderly movement of persons along the Western Balkans route;
2. Submitting joint needs assessments for EU support within 24 hours;
Limiting Secondary Movements
3. Discouraging the movement of refugees or migrants to the border of another country of the region without informing neighbouring countries;
Supporting refugees and providing shelter and rest
4. Increasing the capacity to provide temporary shelter, food, health, water and sanitation to all in need; triggering the EU Civil Protection Mechanism where necessary;
5. Greece to increase reception capacity to 30,000 places by the end of the year, and to support UNHCR to provide rent subsidies and host family programmes for at least 20,000 more – a pre-condition to make the emergency relocation scheme work; Financial support for Greece and UNHCR is expected;
6. Working with the UNHCR who will support the increase of reception capacities by 50,000 places along the Western Balkans route.
7. Working with International Financial Institutions such as the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Development Bank of the Council of Europe which are ready to support financially efforts of the countries willing to make use of these resources;
Managing the migration flows together
8. Ensuring a full capacity to register arrivals, with maximum use of biometric data;
9. Exchanging information on the size of flows and, where requested, on all arriving refugees and migrants on a country’s territory;
10. Working with EU Agencies to swiftly put in place this exchange of information;
11. Stepping up national and coordinated efforts to return migrants not in need of international protection, working with Frontex;
12. Working with the European Commission and Frontex to step up practical cooperation on readmission with third countries and intensifying cooperation in particular with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan; Commission to work to implement existing readmission agreements fully and start work on new readmission agreements with relevant countries;
13. Increase efforts to manage borders, including by:
o Finalising and implementing the EU-Turkey Action Plan;
o Making full use of the potential of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement and the visa liberalisation roadmap;
o Upscaling the Poseidon Sea Joint Operation in Greece;
o Reinforcing Frontex support at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey
o Strengthening border cooperation between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, with increased UNHCR engagement;
o Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania will strengthen the management of the external land border, with Frontex to support registration in Greece;
o Working together with Frontex to monitor border crossings and support registration and fingerprinting at the Croatian-Serbian border crossing points;
o Deploying in Slovenia 400 police officers and essential equipment within a week, through bilateral support;
o Strengthening the Frontex Western Balkans Risk Analysis Network with intensified reporting from all participants;
o Making use, where appropriate of the Rapid Border Intervention Team (RABIT) mechanism, which should be duly equipped;
14. Reconfirming the principle of refusing entry to third country nationals who do not confirm a wish to apply for international protection (in line with international and EU refugee law and subject to prior non-refoulement and proportionality checks);
Tackling smuggling and trafficking
15. Stepping up actions against migrant smuggling and trafficking of human beings with support of Europol, Frontex and Interpol;
Information on the rights and obligations of refugees and migrants
16. Making use of all available communication tools to inform refugees and migrants about existing rules, as well as about their rights and obligations, notably on the consequences of a refusal to be registered, fingerprinted and of a refusal to seek protection where they are;
17. Monitoring the implementation of these commitments on a weekly basis; Commission to coordinate with national contact points.
The second phase of EUNAVFOR MED, “Sofia”, started in October. It takes name from a Somali child born during a critic journey in the Mediterranean and rescued by a German ship last August.
The project aims to stop the trafficking of human beings intercepting smugglers in the sea. The monitoring of international waters, aims to search, control and seize suspicious craft, and it is entrusted to military ships, helicopters and drones. All this, within the framework of the objectives set in July by the European Union to stem the crisis of migrants in the Mediterranean: identification, arrest and destruction of boats and means used by traffickers.
Currently, six European warships are engaged offshore Libya: an Italian one, an English one, a French one, a Spanish one and two German, but later this month three other means should be made available from England, Belgium and Slovenia. Four helicopters, many drones and 1300 military will be added to these.
According to Admiral Enrico Credendino, head of mission, “the order is enforcing law by the use of force, to dislocate traffickers’ business. While the first phase aimed to find the necessary information about transnational criminal network, the second phase provides for the boarding of vessels, their inspection, the reception of migrants, the arrest of traffickers and the destruction of their boats. All this, however, within international waters, 12 nautical miles away from the Libyan coast. We need a United Nations decision and an invitation from Libyan government to operate directly in the territorial waters. The third next phase would allow the temporary landing on the ground for the destruction of smugglers’ structures “.
This last phase, which hasn’t yet received the green light of the EU, would actually be the most effective, since it is in Libyan waters that most of the smugglers operate, but – as the Italian Foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni says – ”UN Security Council can’t authorize this intervention without the express request of Libya “.
14 European countries are participating in EUNAVFOR MED: Italy, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Slovenia, Greece, Luxembourg, Belgium, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden. The costs of military intervention – apart from an annually European contribution of 12 million Euros – are supported by the individual participating countries. Italy has contributed to the mission with a budget of 26 million euro and 1.020 soldiers.