Italy is looking more closely at the role of privately-funded rescue operations that have been plucking migrants from the seas off Libya and into the possibility that there may be collusion between smugglers and some of the rescuers. A Sicilian prosecutor has told the news agency AFP that the cost and sophistication of the rescue operations had attracted attention. “There is an abnormal proliferation of NGOs [Non-Government Organisations] operating “ said Carmelo Zuccaro, Catania’s prosecutor, “I’m not talking about the big, prestigious organisations, but all the small ones that seem to have sophisticated hardware, such as drones” Zuccaro said that in 2013 his office had begun its own monitoring of migrant trafficking. Because of their expensive equipment and its interest in their sources of funding, it had now started to check NGOs for any links with the smugglers. It seems clear that the European border security force Frontex has been watching the movement of rescue vessels just as it has been seeking to monitor the trafficking gangs that have been launching migrants from the coast of western Libya. Such observation will have included the interception of radio traffic.
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.