European Union member-states’ leaders are considering ways to double the financial sources they could use in order to prevent tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea and save the lives of thousands of migrants who are trying to reach Europe. Moreover, they are examining plans to capture and destroy vessels that could be used for trafficking, in the turmoil of the recent naval tragedies that have cost the lives of more than 900 refugees.
According to a draft statement prepared for today’s summit and obtained by The Associated Press, the 28 member-states are pledging to “increase search and rescue possibilities” and “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers.” EU Foreign Policy chief official Federica Mogherini will immediately start preparing an operation that would likely have a military component.
EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, who traveled to Malta in order to attend the funeral of 24 migrants that were drowned in the Mediterranean, highlighted that “we will take action now. Europe is declaring war on smugglers.”
In a similar tone, Italian Premier Matteo Renzi underlined in a New York Times article that the “European Union naval operations in the Horn of Africa have successfully fought piracy and a similar initiative must be developed to effectively fight against human trafficking in the Mediterranean,” adding that the “trafficking vessels should be put out of operation.”
The EU draft statement also said the nations want to “set up a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement, offering at least 5,000 places to persons qualifying for protection.” In addition, it also proposes cutting the time needed to process would-be migrants, which can now take up to a year before a person is processed and deemed legal to stay.
European Council President Donald Tusk urged the summit “to agree on very practical measures,” by “strengthening search-and-rescue possibilities, fighting the smugglers and discouraging their victims from putting their lives at risk, while reinforcing solidarity.”
It should be noted that, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency, about 219,000 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean just in 2014, and at least 3,500 died trying to reach Europe. More than 1,000 are believed to have died this month alone.