Today’s announcement by the European Commission on managing the migration crisis in the Mediterranean contains the right analysis of the overall situation, but offers no concrete solutions to protecting and saving lives, said Amnesty International.
“We agree that a European solution to the search and rescue crisis is urgently needed, but that’s not being offered here. Member states need to step up and chip in. Extending operation Triton without increasing its assets and operational area changes absolutely nothing,” said Iverna McGowan, acting director of Amnesty International European Institutions Office.
During a press briefing in Brussels, Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, acknowledged that the European Union (EU) needed to react more efficiently to the “ever starker” reality of the rising number of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
While he pledged to extend Triton, a pan-EU border management operation, to the end of the year and announced €13 million in new emergency funding to help Italy with the reception of rescued migrants, he did not commit to bolstering search and rescue operations. Before its closure at the end of last year, Italy’s Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation saved thousands of lives, with a price tag of €9.5 million per month. The significantly smaller Operation Triton costs between €1.5 and €2.9 million a month.
Despite Mare Nostrum’s closure, Italy’s coast guard has continued to lead on life-saving operations in the central Mediterranean – contributing to the rescue of more than 2,800 people last weekend alone, including the deployment of Frontex assets. The loss of more than 300 lives earlier this month near the Italian island of Lampedusa underscored the glaring gap in search-and-rescue resources.
“The latest Lampedusa tragedy laid bare yet again the woeful inadequacy of the European Union’s current border control approach to the spiralling humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Today’s announcement has failed to change the simple fact that without more resources from member states for search and rescue, more people will die on the high seas,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.