The UN refugee agency is putting pressure on Europe to help Italy defuse the "unfolding tragedy" of tens of thousands of migrants and refugees flooding its shores.But the EU says "no" to opening more European ports to migrants:
The move comes as interior ministers of France, Germany and Italy prepare to meet in Paris on Sunday to discuss a "coordinated approach" to help Rome.
Italy needs more international support to cope with a growing number of people who have braved a perilous Mediterranean crossing to reach Europe this year, Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said on Saturday in a statement.
"What is happening in front of our eyes in Italy is an unfolding tragedy.
"In the course of last weekend, 12,600 migrants and refugees arrived on its shores, and an estimated 2,030 have lost their lives in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year."
Italy, he said, was "playing its part" in taking in those rescued and offering protection to those in need.
"These efforts must be continued and strengthened. But this cannot be an Italian problem alone."
Last week, Italy threatened to close its doors to people arriving on boats that were not flying Italian flags.
EU interior ministers have refused to support an Italian proposal to open up European ports to ships carrying migrants.So, Italy mulls sending navy into Libyan waters to stop migrants:
But governments did agree to help the Libyan coastguards do more and step up deportations of failed asylum-seekers.
“Returns in this case are being backed up by a common visa policy. That means that those countries, which don’t comply with returns will have to face visa restrictions, by single EU countries, said Marco Minitti, Italian interior minister.
Italy plans to draw up a code of conduct for NGOs as some EU officials believe sea rescue services are a pull factor for would-be migrants.
“We abide by Humanitarian principles, by the principle of Humanitarian action, by Medical Ethics, by International Refugee Law and by International Maritime Law, because we operate at sea. So, we are quite clear about the frame in which we operate, and we doubt that a Code of Conduct will complement that,” said Aurélie Ponthieu of Doctors Without Borders.
Italy had sought help, even at one point, threatening to close their ports to foreign humanitarian ships
Escaping wars and poverty, more than 360,000 refugees and migrants arrived on European shores across the Mediterranean last year. More than 85,000 have reached Italy so far this year.
Italy is considering a plan to send its navy into Libyan waters to stop migrants and send them back. Approval for the mission could go before parliament as early as next week.Which generates a response from another Libyan group Libya's eastern commander vows to destroy Italian warships if sailed to Libyan water:
taly's center-left government will brief lawmakers about a plan to deploy Italian navy vessels along Libya's shores to stop traffickers sending migrants to Italy, Premier Paolo Gentiloni said Thursday.
A Libyan request to send Italian navy ships to patrol its waters was "a possible turning point" in the migration crisis, said Gentiloni, who convened military chiefs and ministers on Thursday to discuss immigration, security, and Libya.
Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj, who leads the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli, made the request for Italian naval help while in Rome on Wednesday. His visit came after Serraj and the rival government of General Khalifa Hifter met in France and agreed on a ceasefire and possible national elections in the unstable North African country.
Nearly 600,000 boat migrants have arrived in Italy since 2014 after making the dangerous cross-Mediterranean journey in boats.
The Libyan eastern commander of Dignity Operation forces, Khalifa Haftar, has ordered to bombard any warships sailing into the Libyan waters, in a U-turn that could see escalations between eastern Libya and the UN-proposed government's bodies in western Libya get tense.For those who follow such things, Amnesty International is an NGO which offers up the EU as a resettlement area for migrants and refugees because . . . Central Mediterranean: Death toll soars as EU turns its back on refugees and migrants:
The call of Haftar came just hours after the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), which backs Haftar's Dignity Operation forces, announced in a statement the rejection of any agreements made by the Head of the UN-proposed government's Presidential Council, Fayez Al-Sirraj, and any requests he made to Italy.
"We reject Al-Sirraj request to Italy which can vividly violate the sovereignty of Libya under the pretext of fighting illegal immigration." The spokesman of the HoR Abdullah Belheeq said.
He also said that agreements with other countries come from legislative bodies like the HoR, not by executive ones like the UN-proposed government, which has not been given the confidence vote by the HoR yet, he added.
The HoR statement warned that Italy - by its deal with Al-Sirraj - is trying to export the crisis of illegal immigration to Libya by returning scores of migrants to Libya, making a new security, social and economic dilemma for the country.
The HoR also urged the UN to help thwart the current violation of Libya's sovereignty as it is a member of the UN just like Italy, which means that the latter should commit to the international laws and conventions by respecting Libya's sovereignty.
Meanwhile, Wednesday afternoon, the Italian parliament voted for sending a naval mission to Libya's waters to help stem the current migrants flow right from the inside, knowing that Amnesty International called the step earlier this week a shameful attempt by the Italian authorities to circumvent their duty to rescue refugees and migrants at sea and to offer protection to those who need it.
The soaring death toll in the central Mediterranean and the horrific abuses faced by thousands of refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centres are clearly linked to failing EU policies, said Amnesty International in a report published today.So, what prompted this mass movement again? The EU or the miserable states these people are fleeing? What's AI saying about that? Not much, as the AI piece from which I just quoted quotes a man from Bangladesh and one from Gambia.
A perfect storm: The failure of European policies in the Central Mediterranean finds that by ceding the lion’s share of responsibility for search and rescue to NGOs and by increasing cooperation with the Libyan coastguard, European governments are failing to prevent drownings and turning a blind eye to abuse, including torture and rape.
“Rather than acting to save lives and offer protection, European Ministers meeting today are shamelessly prioritizing reckless deals with Libya in a desperate bid to prevent refugees and migrants from reaching Italy,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.
“European states have progressively turned their backs on a search and rescue strategy that was reducing mortality at sea in favour of one that has seen thousands drown and left desperate men, women and children trapped in Libya, exposed to horrific abuses.”
Measures implemented by EU leaders to strengthen search and rescue capacity in the central Mediterranean in April 2015 dramatically decreased deaths at sea. But this priority, which saw several countries provide more rescue boats closer to Libyan territorial waters, was short-lived. Instead, EU governments have shifted their focus to disrupting smugglers and preventing departures of boats from Libya: a failing strategy that has led to ever more dangerous crossings and a threefold increase in the death-rate from 0.89% in the second half of 2015 to 2.7% in 2017.
Changes to smugglers’ practices and an increasing use of unseaworthy boats with a complete lack of safety equipment on board have made the sea crossing even more unsafe. But despite a spike in deaths - more than 2,000 since January – the EU is failing to deploy an adequately resourced and dedicated humanitarian operation near Libyan territorial waters. Instead it is focusing on strengthening the abilities of the Libyan coastguard to better prevent departures and perform interceptions.
Here we get to the nut of the issue. Given that EU governments are paid for by the taxes of their citizenry and those taxes are being used to sustain tens of thousands of migrants many of whom are not "refugees" at all, at what point can a government tell migrants "No vacancy?"
An excellent post by Claude Berube and Chris Rawley at War on the Rocks, DUELING NGOS ON THE SEAS: ‘WHAT SHIPS ARE FOR’ covers what happens when nation states don't react as non-state actors may wish and the Non-state actors start taking matters into their own hands and perhaps into confrontation with other non-state actors with a different view of matters:
Today’s ideological battles are not simply confined to land or cyberspace. Nor is conflict at sea reserved for state-sponsored navies. The high seas are increasingly a battlespace for non-government organizations (NGOs). Although organizations such as Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have been conducting maritime operations in support of their environmental missions for four decades, in recent years other maritime NGOs have emerged for a variety of causes.This could get interesting.
The recent wave of migration from Africa and the Middle East into Europe – often by boat – has encouraged both state and non-state navies to begin rescue and interdiction operations in the Mediterranean. The thousands of people fleeing growing instability in North Africa and the Near East have set the stage for competing political positions.
Search-and-rescue organizations seeking to help migrants have found themselves in conflict not with the government, but with a competing NGO, Defend Europe. The dispute highlights that future maritime battles may not be restricted to governments or to militant groups on the seas, especially as government resources shrink and NGOs see increasing political incentives to enter this space.
It seems some NGOs are "more equal than others" and are getting local law enforement to reject other NGOs. As in Far-Right Anti-Migrant Ship Told It’s Not Welcome In Crete:
The Djibouti-flagged C-Star is part of an operation by the far-right Generation Identity movement called Defend Europe, aimed at stopping nongovernmental organizations and national coast guards from rescuing refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean.Defend Europe set out its mission:
Every week, every day, every hour – ships packed with illegal Immigrants are flooding into European waters. An invasion is taking place. This massive immigration is changing the face of our continent. We are losing our safety and our way of life and there is a danger we Europeans will become a minority in our own European homelands.Stay tuned.
We want to start an identitarian search-and-rescue (SAR) mission in July on the Libyan coast. Our goal is to document the doings of the NGOs, expose their collaboration with the human smugglers, and intervene if they do something illegal.
We will reach out to the Libyan Coast Guard and offer them our help as a recon ship. Our goal is to step in where our politicians are failing and to do what is necessary to stop the deadly illegal migration into Europe.
If we get an SOS signal, we will of course save the people in distress — and hand them over to the Libyan Coast Guard to make sure that they are brought to the closest harbour, according to international law. We will not enter territorial waters without their permission!
Defend Europe will make the Mediterrenean Sea more safe. An additional ship is able to answer SOS calls and our “No Way” policy for illegal immigration will discourage human traffickers and NGOs to lure people into the sea.
The closing of the Mediterranean route is the only way to Defend Europe and save lives.