Daily Management Review

EU will stop saving migrants in the Mediterranean


The European Union is completing the naval part of the large-scale Operation SOPHIA off the coast of Libya. Thanks to this Mediterranean patrol operation launched at the height of the 2015 migration crisis, more than 650 thousand people were rescued. However, it was not possible to reach a consensus on its extension: some participating countries considered that rescuing people encourages illegal carriers. Nominally, the mission was extended by Brussels for another six months, but European patrol vessels will stop sailing already on Monday.

Irish Defence Forces
Irish Defence Forces
The European Union will recall the last patrol vessels from the Mediterranean Sea already on Sunday. In fact, this will mean the end of Operation SOPHIA, a mission to save refugees, as well as to combat smuggling of people and weapons off the coast of Libya. Although after long disputes, the EU countries nevertheless agreed to extend the operation for another six months, this extension is rather nominal. Now the military from the European Union will only be able to continue training the Libyan coast guard and observe what is happening in the sea. But they will not have the right to rescue people from the water and come to the aid of ships in distress. The European Commission has already said that the mission will no longer be productive from April.

Operation SOPHIA began in May 2015. That year, at the height of the migration crisis, more than 3.7 thousand people died in the Mediterranean. The purpose of the operation was to prevent further casualties and fight smugglers who illegally, often in small boats, transported migrants to Europe. The operation was called "Sophia" after a girl who was born to one of the rescued women aboard an Italian warship. During the mission, several dozen ships participated in it, but now there are only two left.

According to the European Commissioner for Migration, Internal Affairs and Citizenship of Dimitris Avramopoulos, “the European Union since 2015 has helped to save more than 650 thousand migrants, reducing their mortality in sea waters by 36%.” If the ship gave a distress signal or movement was dangerous, then all those rescued were delivered to Italian ports. Thus, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 2017, 67% of all arriving in the EU settled in Italy.

In recent years, the number of refugees landing on the Italian coast has decreased dramatically. However, the populist government of Italy, which came to power in June 2018, does not like these figures. The so-called yellow-green coalition, made up of the 5 Star Movement and Lega Nord, calls the fight against the influx of migrants one of its main objectives. Non-governmental organizations involved in the rescue of refugees and relevant European mechanisms were also criticized: Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini openly called rescue vessels a “taxi for migrants”. Last summer, he warned that Rome would not allow the Diciotti and Aquarius vessels chartered by Doctors Without Borders to land on the Italian shore. After that, the Italian prosecutor's office even initiated an investigation into Mr. Salvini, accusing him of abuse of power, but the government stood its ground.

source: reuters.com