Italy: Ending Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation would ‘put lives at risk’

Italy’s proposal to end its Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea would put the lives of thousands of migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe at risk, Amnesty International said today.

Italy’s Minister of Interior Angelino Alfano has proposed that Mare Nostrum, which was launched a year ago today and has saved tens of thousands of lives at sea, should end when Frontex’s new border operation Triton starts on 1 November. 

“Frontex’s Triton operation does not begin to meet the needs of thousands of migrants and refugees, including those forced to flee war and persecution in the Middle East and Africa. The suggestion that it could replace Mare Nostrum could have catastrophic and deadly consequences in the Mediterranean,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director.

“Triton is a border operation and does not have a search and rescue mandate. It will only operate close to Italian waters and not beyond, where it is most needed. Even Frontex have said that Triton does not have the resources to carry out the work of Mare Nostrum.

“Italy must continue the Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation until there is a better-equipped alternative supported by other European countries – and Triton is certainly not it.

“If Italy follows through on this proposal, the disturbing prospect of ‘Frontex plus’ turning into ‘Mare Nostrum minus’ is in danger of becoming a reality.”

The decision to end Mare Nostrum will be on the agenda of one the Italian government’s next cabinet meetings.