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14th Oct 2019

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EU migrant boat plan fails to get extra support
  • Over a 1,000 people have died so far this year in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean sea. (Photo: Flickr)

Brussels, 9. Oct, 09:28
A draft plan agreed some two weeks ago to distribute rescued migrants at sea failed to muster much support among EU states at a meeting of interior ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday (8 October).

France, Germany, Italy, and Malta had, in late September, put forward a fast-track plan to disembark and relocate people fleeing Libya by boat within four weeks after being rescued at sea.

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The four states had hoped at least a dozen would sign up, but on Tuesday only Ireland, Luxembourg, and Portugal agreed to back the initiative.

"We were seven yesterday, seven this morning and seven this evening. So things haven't changed much," Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's minister responsible for migration, told reporters.

The temporary proposal is meant to end stand-offs among EU states, sometimes forcing charity boats full of rescued migrants to wait for weeks before being able to port and offload the people.

At least 14 such stand-offs have surfaced since last summer, causing grief and stress among those rescued while highlighting the broader political failures among EU states on how to deal with incoming asylum seekers.

Over a 1,000 people have since been transferred to member states and to Norway since June last year.

The issue was further exasperated by EU states like Malta and Italy, which refused to allow the boats to port.

Italy had closed access and threatened massive fines under its previous deputy prime minister, the far-right Matteo Salvini.

But a recent change in government and Salvini's departure has since seen a softer approach from Rome, which some had hoped would create the extra momentum for support of the latest draft plan.

Salvini's replacement, Luciana Lamorgese, told reporters she hoped more EU states would join before the end of the year, noting "three or four states that had already said they were available, like Luxembourg and Ireland."

Asked what went wrong, the EU commissioner for home affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, described it as a work in process to be discussed again on a technical level in Brussels.

"We have to continue trying to convince member states. Behind closed doors today we had a very open and frank discussion," he said.

Maria Ohisalo, Finland's minister of interior and speaking on the behalf of the EU presidency, said Helsinki was also working to get more countries on board.

"It is evident that we must pay attention to all routes and continue to work vigorously with different challenges," she said, noting that Greece, Bulgaria, and Cyprus were also experiencing an increase in migrant arrivals.

"In September, 11,500 people arrived in Greece, which is the highest monthly figure since the implementation of the EU Turkey statement," she pointed out.

The UN convention on the law of the sea, also known as Unclos, imposes legal obligations for states to establish and operate adequate search and rescue services.

Tamas Molnar, who leads the EU's fundamental rights agency, told MEPs last week that Uclos bound all EU member states.

"This is also incorporated into the EU legal order, since the European Union as a subject of international law, as an entity in itself, is a contracting party to the Unclos, so it is part and parcel of the UN legal order," he pointed out.

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Draft EU migration deal has fatal flaw, warns ship captain 3. Oct, 16:56
The captain of the Sea Watch 3 migrant-rescue boat, Carola Rackete, says the draft migrant deal between some EU member states on disembarkation may force vessels to take orders from Libya.

Four EU states want 'automatic' refugee relocation 23. Sep, 09:28
The interior ministers from France, Germany, Italy, and Malta are meeting on Monday to discuss a new temporary and voluntary agreement for the relocation of asylum seekers, that will prevent EU countries from negotiating case-by-case.

Hungary faces EU court for starving migrants 11. Oct, 08:49
The European Commission is one step away from taking Hungary to court if it does not offer a credible explanation for why it denied detained migrants food in its transit zones along the Serbian border.

EU agency kept in dark on forced flight abuse 9. Oct, 08:21
Anti-torture witnesses told Germany but not the EU about abuse on a forced return flight to Afghanistan last year, posing questions on Europe's human rights safeguards.

Johansson: 'No new proposals in first 100 days' 2. Oct, 09:01
The European Commission's possible next home affairs chief, who is responsible for creating a new pact on migration and asylum, struggled to provide MEPs any specific details on how to unblock the impasse over asylum.

Greece migrant arrivals becoming 'unsustainable' 30. Sep, 17:56
Thousands of migrants arriving on Greek islands are "creating unsustainable conditions" in an asylum system that was "already under great strain", the EU has warned.

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