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NGO rescue ships dismayed by EU's failure to agree to migrant disembarkation plans

THE civil refugee rescue fleet has expressed dismay over the EU’s failure yesterday to agree to a temporary scheme to distribute refugees saved from a watery grave in the Mediterranean.

The emergency mechanism put to the meeting of EU interior ministers in Luxembourg yesterday was drafted by France, Germany, Italy and Malta last month after a summer in which several migrant rescue ships were refused a port to disembark the people they had saved at sea. 

The so-called Malta deal met a tepid response. Of 28 member states, only three— Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal — expressed any desire to join the initiative. 

France’s European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin attempted to put a positive spin on the meeting, saying afterwards: “We have been able to enlarge the circle of countries willing to support us with this rapid relocation in case of new boat arrivals. 

“There are around 10 countries ready to take part.” The Star counts seven. 

“The Luxembourg meeting was a failure,” Alarm Phone, an independent support service for people crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, tweeted this morning. 

“No mechanism for migrant relocations was agreed upon. No efforts were taken to stop the mass dying at sea, to end the harassment of NGO rescuers and to open up safer flight routes to Europe.”

SOS Mediterranee, a French charity that operates the rescue ship Ocean Viking along with Doctors Without Borders, was also disappointed by the meeting.  

“Where will we disembark next? Sixteen months after the first blockade of the Aquarius, we regret that concrete terms of a co-ordinated, predictable and swift disembarkation mechanism have not been clearly set out,” SOS Mediterranee director of operations Frederic Penard said.

“Those are absolutely essential to put an end to ad hoc agreements for humanitarian rescue vessels, which have been unnecessarily blocked for days at sea with survivors on board.” 

Nine migrant rights and rescue NGOs issued a joint statement on Tuesday. The charities, which include Open Arms, Sea Eye, Sea Watch and Alarm Phone, criticised the EU for focusing on the relocation of migrants rather than its own role in perpetuating human rights abuses. 

“Establishing a relocation mechanism for people rescued at sea by private ships is secondary to the wider problem of the ongoing severe violations of international human rights law occurring in the Mediterranean area against people who migrate,” the statement reads. 

“These violations are above all put in place through the co-operation of the EU member states with third countries such as Libya, a country afflicted by a civil war, in which the so-called authorities are in strict connection with traffickers of human beings, and tortures and inhuman and degrading treatments are usually perpetrated against foreigners, as several institutional reports denounced in detail in [recent] years.

“We reaffirm that the opening of legal entry channels from third countries, and humanitarian corridors from countries at war, constitutes the only real way to fight and dismantle smuggler networks in the central Mediterranean.”

The charities also laid out 11 recommendations for the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council, which you can read here: mstar.link/PositionPaper

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