Europe is again under shock. During a journey to that promised Europe, that for many African who don’t have anything to lose and that most probably represents the promised land, a lot of people drowned. Around 950 people were on the boat that on Sunday sank between Malta and Lampedusa, and another 200 on the boat that sank on Monday near the Greek island of Rhodes. Some of them were rescued, but the vast majority will forever remain in the Mediterranean. Based on the data of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) the Mediterranean took last year 3.279 people, while until the 19 April of this year already 1.600. For how much have this number to rise, that Europe (the EU and its Member States) will react?
Even if we will need to wait to see some actions, the EU this time reacted very fast. The minister for foreign and home affairs met already on Monday (during the Foreign Affairs Council held in Luxembourg), while the Heads of States will meet tomorrow in Brussels to discuss the topic. For the EU, that takes always a long time to decide on something, is this action something extraordinary.
The Heads of State will tomorrow discuss the ten point list of actions (the complete list is available here) that were discussed by the ministers on Monday. The main actions consist in the reinforcement of the Joint operations of the EU External Border Agency FRONTEX, namely Triton and Poseidon, by increasing their financial and staff resources. Moreover, the Member States would back the capture and destruction of vessels that are used by the criminal groups to smuggle people. Suck actions revealed successful already during the EU operation Atalanta against the Somali pirates.
The programme foresees also the increase in the number of staff of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), that would help Italy and Greece in the processing of asylum requests. From the point of view of asylum, the plan also states that the EU States will consider options for an emergency relocation mechanism on EU territory. Such an action would represent a big step ahead as Member States will finally help more each other to cope with the migration problems faced by Southern European countries. The current EU legislation (the Dublin Regulation) establishes only the rules regarding which country has to process the asylum application. The plan finally foresees also the launch of a new return programme (under FRONTEX management) and an enhanced dialogue with the third countries from where the migrations start.
In any case, promises are one thing, real actions are another. The EU already in 2013, after the tragic death of 500 people, announced several actions, that proved to be ineffective in preventing these death trips. Operations Tritonis and Poseidon, that replaced the Italian rescue mission Mare Nostrum, demonstrated to be under-resourced and they didn’t prevent some of the worst sinkings.
After every tragic accident we can hear the classic phrase “Never more!” unfortunately, this phrase is used to much times. However, the unusual speedy reaction of the EU maybe shows that the last sinkings were really enough. Even if we can blame the EU, that does not enough to save the migrants and that doesn’t help the geographically most exposed States, it can’t do everything alone. These actions, that can only alleviate the symptoms, have to be part of a broader action of the international community that would eliminate the main causes of this departures and that would allow these people to live in peace in their home countries.