Brussels, Nov 21 (EFE).- The European Commission presented an action plan on Monday to reinforce cooperation in the Mediterranean after France last week was forced to take a migrant rescue ship that was refused permission to disembark by Italy.
On November 11, the humanitarian Ocean Viking vessel docked in a French port carrying 230 people after spending over two weeks at sea.
Its petitions to dock in Italy were refused by the hard right coalition government of prime minister Giorgia Meloni, prompting a diplomatic spat with France.
The Action Plan for the Central Mediterranean, presented by the home commissioner Ylva Johansson, contains 20 measures to “address the immediate and ongoing challenges” along the migration route, including strengthening cooperation with the countries of origin, in particular Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Niger.
The commissioner said that 90,000 people had arrived through that route this year and that the “recent developments further underline the need to find sustainable and structural European solutions.”
“Today’s plan provides a bridge towards the full pact with targeted and operational initiatives to prevent hazardous journeys, fight smugglers, enhance returns and legal pathways, while addressing emerging practices of search and rescue in a spirit of mutual cooperation and accelerating the implementation of the voluntary solidarity mechanism,” Johansson said in a statement.
The plan was presented ahead of the Extraordinary Council of Interior Ministers on November 25.
It is based on three pillars, starting with cooperation with third countries and international organizations to boost border management and stem migration flows from the countries of origin, in particular Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Niger.
The second pillar of the plan suggests a more coordinated approach for search and rescue operations at sea.
Johansson reminded commissioners that it was a legal obligation for EU member states to assist any person who is in danger at sea up to the point of safe disembarkation, regardless of the circumstances that led them to find themselves in such a situation.
In this context, she stressed the importance of promoting a dialogue with the coastal states of the Mediterranean and with the International Maritime Organization to forge a “specific framework and guidelines for vessels.”
Finally, the plan calls for reinforcing the application of the European Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism and the Joint Roadmap which was penned in June.
Johannson flagged that since the deal was struck, even though member states had, so far, made over 8,000 offers to relocate migrants to their territories, barely over 100 transfers had taken place.
The commissioner reached out to France saying the bloc hoped it would reconsider its announcement last week to withdraw from the solidarity mechanism following a spat with Italy over the disembarkation of migrants on the Ocean Viking
Italy’s new hard-right government has pledged to stop migration flows from the Middle East and North Africa, and has been at loggerheads with human rights organizations and other European nations over its refusal to let rescue ships dock at its ports since coming to power last month.EFE