Five EU nations reach deal on rescued migrants – Newspaper

VALLETTA: Five nations of the European Union agreed on Monday a temporary agreement for the disembarkation and relocation of migrants rescued in the central Mediterranean from ships not suitable for trafficking in persons, with officials who press for a broader agreement that involves to more EU countries.

During the talks in Malta, the interior ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Malta and Finland decided to share among their five countries migrants trying to cross from Libya, the deadliest migration route to Europe, which rescuers take from the sea .

The agreement will apply over the next two weeks, until a meeting of European Union Interior Ministers on October 8, when participants in Monday's talks expect all or many other EU countries to join the agreement.

For more than a year, Italy and Malta blocked humanitarian ships that rescued migrants at sea for docking or disembarking their passengers in those countries. Anti-immigrant policies caused repeated forced clashes of several weeks until other EU nations took a step forward with promises to take at least some of the migrants.

The temporary agreement would cover all ships that rescue migrants in the central Mediterranean

It is "crucial that we move away from ship-by-ship arrangements," said Finnish Minister Maria Osihalo.

He added that the limited agreement reached on Monday aims to ensure that rescue ships "find a safe harbor without delay, thus avoiding additional difficulties for migrants and ensuring the rapid relocation of asylum seekers voluntarily to other member states." .

Participating countries said details were being given to other EU countries before the EU ministerial meeting on October 8. Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said that the exact percentages of rescued migrants that each country would accept to receive will depend on how many EU members finally participate in the system.

But it seemed that the five-nation agreement would cover all ships that rescue migrants in the central Mediterranean, the route used by traffickers based in Libya. Sometimes, military ships from Malta or Italy make the bailouts, and occasionally a fishing or cargo ship takes the survivors out of the sea.

Current EU rules say that refugees and other asylum seekers must remain in the country where they arrive while their cases are being processed, but most migrants hope to arrive in northern Europe to find work or reunite with relatives who have emigrated successfully there.

In the new three-week coalition of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Lamorgese replaced Matteo Salvini, whose right-wing League party has gained popularity in the country with anti-immigrant positions. Claiming that such bailouts essentially facilitate the traffickers, Salvini refused to let charity ships dock in Italy to fire migrants.

Ad-hoc solutions to resolve clashes in closed ports "are simply not sustainable," said EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, who attended the Valletta talks.

Many of the migrants are fleeing poverty and are not eligible for asylum. Italy, which saw hundreds of thousands of rescued migrants land on its shores in recent years before repressions against humanitarian ships, has been hampered by the repatriation of the majority of those rejected by asylum.

Meanwhile, immigrants aboard the Ocean Viking jumped for joy and relief after hearing that they will be allowed to disembark at the port of Messina, Sicily, a week after the rescue. The 182 men, women and children, including a newborn, were expected to board the humanitarian ship led by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders by Tuesday.

"I'm so full of joy! I don't know what to say now. I'm so happy! … No more to Libya!" Exclaimed Awudu Baluduzzi, 27, of Ghana.

Many migrant traffickers are based in Libya, largely without law. While waiting for the opportunity to navigate to European shores aboard boats and fishing boats unfit for smuggling, migrants remain for months or years in detention centers where they are at risk of being beaten, raped, mutilated or forced to perform slavery jobs, say survivors and UN officials.

Posted on Dawn, September 24, 2019



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