EU takeover of Italian mission a catastrophe for Mediterranean migration
After a year of operation, the Mare Nostrum humanitarian and military mission promoted by the Italian government to increase patrols in the Mediterranean Sea in order to prevent migrant shipwrecks came to an end on 1 November.
Since 18 October 2013 the operation was allowed to save almost 100 000 lives (including 9 000 minors) and to arrest 500 traffickers. Amnesty International believes the decision to replace Mare Nostrum with a different mission called Triton, directly financed by the European Union, is strategically flawed.
John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director, explain that Italy`s decision to "replace Mare Nostrum will have catastrophic and deadly consequences in the Mediterranean. 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. 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."
Dalhuisen said the move seems absolutely counter-productive, especially because the financing for the new operation (EUR 2.9 million per month ) will be lower than it was for Mare Nostrum, which was at least three times more substantial.
Gil Arias Fernandez, executive director of Frontex, the EU agency that coordinates border management, also explains that the two operations are nothing like one another. In his opinion, "EU agencies cannot replace member States' responsibility to control their own borders, but should only try to support them. At the same time, the main aim of Triton is to control the border, not to survey the situation and save lives."
The main problem with the change is the fact that Triton cannot be considered a replacement mission for the previous program in any aspect. Mare Nostrum extended 400 miles south of Lampedusa, Triton extends only 30 miles in that direction; Mare Nostrum cost about EUR 9 million per month, Triton will cost EUR 2.9 million; Mare Nostrum took on approximately 900 people, Triton will have capacity for 65.
The Italian Government’s decision seems designed to destabilize a situation that has improved a great deal, without analyzing other actions that might be taken and different financial supports available from combined programs. The Save the Children NGO says the move “risks collapsing the effort against a backdrop of death and misery”.
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