November 15, 2022 12:45 pm
The European Commission said the solidarity mechanism between European countries will remain active, despite Paris refusing to relocate 3,500 asylum seekers from Italy, after Rome in turn denied a landing port to the aid ship Ocean Viking, which had saved 234 people along the central Mediterranean route. The humanitarian ship eventually docked in Toulon, France after three weeks of stand-off in mare.
At the same time, France announced that it will no longer participate in the relocation mechanism, approved in June 2022 to amend the Dublin regulation, i.e. the common European rules according to which asylum applications must be accepted by the first countries to enter Europe. The plan initially envisaged the relocation of ten thousand people, which later became eight thousand, who would have had to be transferred from the landing countries, such as Italy and Greece, to thirteen other European countries that had voluntarily joined the project.
However, since June only 117 people have been transferred: of these 38 went to France from Italy at the end of August. Another 74 left Italy on 11 October for the German cities of Hanover and Berlin. France said it would welcome another five hundred by the end of 2022. On November 13, French government spokesman Olivier Véran asked Europe to react against Italy. “Our response was humanitarian and we allowed the ship to dock in Toulon,” he said. “But the second answer is to remind Italy of her obligations, and if she refuses to do so, consider every useful measure.”
Italy against NGOs
On 12 November, a joint declaration by the ministers of the interior of Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus was published in which they complain about the slowness of the European relocation mechanism and ask that not only the countries of southern Europe welcome the landings . “We cannot subscribe to the idea that countries of first entry are the only European landing points for illegal migrants”, is written in the communication.
No allegation of collusion between NGOs and traffickers has proved to be well founded so far
In the letter there are also unfounded considerations on the conduct of non-governmental organizations that operate relief, and which are accused of acting illegally and without coordinating with humanitarian ships. “We reiterate our position that the modus operandi of these private vessels is not in line with the spirit of the international legal framework on the operations of search and rescuewhich should be respected ”.
This was also the point on which the Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani insisted during the European Council of Foreign Ministers on 14 November. Tajani asked for a European “code of conduct” to regulate the work of humanitarian ships. He also accused the NGOs of acting in collusion with human traffickers. “Rescue at sea is one thing, having an appointment in the middle of the sea is quite another,” said Tajani, who met the other foreign ministers and the president of the European parliament Roberta Metsola in Brussels.
“The real truth is that merchant ships should be doing the rescue at sea; evidently there are NGOs that do a different job to free merchant ships from the obligation to rescue people at sea ”, continued Tajani. The accusations of the foreign minister repeat those already made by the Italian governments to the NGOs between 2017 and 2018. No accusation of collusion between NGOs and traffickers has been proven to date and Italy has already approved a code of conduct for NGOs (in 2017) which, however, cannot bypass the rescue at sea prescribed by the international conventions of which Italy is a signatory.
The European response has been very firm and has left no room for Italian requests: the European Commission has declared that the first obligation of countries is to save lives at sea without making differences between NGO ships and other ships.
Among other things, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), stated that only 15 percent of migrants arriving by sea in Italy were rescued by humanitarian ships. All the others were rescued by the Italian coast guard and other rescue ships or arrived independently. On November 14, while there were no humanitarian ships in the central Mediterranean, a thousand people arrived in Italy. A study by Matteo Villa dell’Ispi shows that without NGOs 135 people arrive in Italy a day, with NGOs there are 125 a day. This shows that humanitarian ships are not a pull factor for migrants who are determined to leave.
The European Commission has also called an emergency meeting between European interior ministers to resolve immigration disputes. Margaritis Schinas, vice president of the commission, said that an emergency plan is being considered to ease tensions. “We cannot allow two member states to fight each other in public and create another political migration crisis,” she said in an interview with Politico. In the meantime, Italy is thinking of a new squeeze on NGOs that should arrive in the coming days with the approval of new decrees.