Italy’s rescue operation Mare Nostrum shuts down with no real replacement. EU’s Triton instead might put lives at risk

Cecilia Malmström, Member designate of the EC in charge of Trade, was auditioned by the Committee on International Trade (INTA) of the EP. (EC Audiovisual Services, 29/09/2014)

Cecilia Malmström, Member designate of the EC in charge of Trade, was auditioned by the Committee on International Trade (INTA) of the EP. (EC Audiovisual Services, 29/09/2014)

The European Union’s border control agency Frontex officially launched a mission in the Mediterranean Sea to face the mass attempt of migrants from Africa and the Middle East to reach Europe by boat. And this was not the only official news about this emergency last week.

After rumours and denials Italy confirmed last Friday that its search and rescue operation “Mare Nostrum” ends with the EU’s maritime operation Triton taking over. “From tomorrow a new operation called ‘Triton’ begins. Mare Nostrum ends. Italy has done its duty”. With these words Angelino Alfano, Italy’s deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, welcomed a new phase of cooperation between the European countries to face an immense humanitarian crisis. Or something that should look like that, only if observed from a good distance.

What remains perfectly visible, even from a huge distance, is the consistent differences between the two missions, which anyway are thought – with some dismay- to be de facto interchangeable, at least by someone. Italy’s Mare Nostrum (from Latin “Our Sea”), which began after 360+ people drowned when their boat sank just a mile from the Italian island of Lampedusa one year ago, sent patrols directly close to the Libyan coast and used to cover 70,000 km2 of the Mediterranean.

Triton though is about to focus on border control, only carrying out search-and-rescue operations if necessary, with a range of no more than 30 miles from coast. Mare Nostrum could count on five naval vessels, two helicopters, five aircraft, two submarines and 900 military personnel. Triton’s assets include seven vessels, one helicopter, four fixed-wing aircraft and 65 officers.

Talking about numbers, Mare Nostrum has been costing Italy 9 million euros a month, Triton has an estimated cost of 2.9 million euros a month for the EU. Triton will basically emphasize border control and security, and this will be its main activity. This was made clear by EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in an official statement earlier last month: “It is clear that the Triton operation cannot and will not replace Mare Nostrum. The future of Mare Nostrum remains in any case an Italian decision”. The Commission also says Italy must continue fulfilling its international obligations to rescue people in danger at sea, meaning “continued substantial efforts using national means”, and Italy is anyway expected to contribute to the mission with an extra 3.5 million euro per month.

Italy received many critics for its decision to quit Mare Nostrum. “Italy’s proposal to end its Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea would put the lives of thousands of migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe at risk”, Amnesty International warned in October. A warning that produced no effect though.

“Frontex’s Triton operation does not begin to meet the needs of thousands of migrants and refugees, including those forced to flee war and persecution in the Middle East and Africa. The suggestion that it could replace Mare Nostrum could have catastrophic and deadly consequences in the Mediterranean,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director. Also Catholic charity Caritas, Save the Children and the UNHCR have all insisted that, with a lack of commitment in Europe to finding ways to help asylum seekers to escape their homelands, Italy cannot simply stop saving boat migrants.

The risks of the shutdown of Mare Nostrum are pretty clear to everyone: the European Union is now officially without a search and rescue operation, and many lives will be again put at risk. It is also clear why Italy is receiving so many critics from the humanitarian organisations, but what is not clear to me at least is why Europe is not receiving most of the critics. Are too many years of silence and lack of commitment to find common, effective solutions, no sufficient reason?

Mare Nostrum has always been treated as “Mare Vostrum” by the EU, like if the Mediterranean represented just Italy’s borders, and not the entire Union’s ones. It is evident that Italy is trying to get rid of the costs of the mission in a moment of recession, but this was extensively foreseeable, and I’m sure better solutions could have been found after Rome has long urged the EU to do more to help cope with the migration problem.

“Italy’s Mare Nostrum has saved thousands of lives*, while the other member states idly watch on”, said Nicolas J. Beger, director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “They must now share that responsibility with them, and not hide behind an operation that is not fit for the very real search and rescue needs in the Mediterranean Sea”, he added. And this can be a good summary of the picture, in my personal opinion.

During its one-year lifetime, Mare Nostrum has been largely criticized by many, by governments too in some cases, which argued that such patrols encouraged migrants to set out to the sea. The UK for example has repeatedly said that Britain will not be supporting any future search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Lady Anelay, British Foreign Office minister, declared that such missions “create an unintended ‘pull factor’, encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths”. ]

This statement should be considered carefully, but I also think that when Mr. Beger says that the operation Triton can be “a clear testimony to EU member states’ continuing preoccupation with protecting borders over people”, there’s serious considerations to be made.

I believe that Lady Anelay’s further proposal to “focus our attention on countries of origin and transit” is without doubt a concrete one. However, expecting that a migrant would not set to the open sea because he is informed that no rescue mission is provided be the EU might be ridiculous.

Simply because what migrants leave behind is probably way worse than the Mediterranean Sea in a cold winter night.

*Italy has saved more than 100,000 lives (with many sources saying more than 150,000) in 421 operations in the 12 months since Mare Nostrum began.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Antisemitism, intolerance, can be unlearned, Guterres tells New York commemoration

Sydney is choking on record levels of smog – and the bushfire season is just getting started

From Model T to EV: a short history of motor vehicle manufacturing

Global warming: our responsibility

Cities: a ’cause of and solution to’ climate change

Financial services: Commission sets out its equivalence policy with non-EU countries

3 ways to nurture collaboration between universities and industry

Erasmus+: an expected budget of €3 billion to be invested in young Europeans and to help create European Universities in 2019

‘Once lost, hearing doesn’t come back,’ World Health Organization warns on World Hearing Day

Draghi reserved about Eurozone’s growth prospects

International community urged to deliver on promise for better future for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Who gains when the US and China fight over trade?

Here’s how we can make innovation more inclusive

Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy, during a recent press conference in Brussels / Berlaymont. (Copyright: EU, 2018 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Jennifer Jacquemart)

EU opens investigation into Qatar Petroleum over potentially restrictive gas contracts

UN Security Council condemns Taliban offensive as a blow against ‘sustainable peace’

Customs Union: Fake and potentially dangerous goods worth nearly €740 million stopped at EU customs in 2018

We must work together to build a new world order. This is how we can do it

How tech companies compare at protecting your digital rights

When connectivity is not enough: the key to meaningful digital inclusion

Why CEOs need to become activists in sustainability

Got the blues? Head for some green spaces

Why do medical curricula shouldn’t neglect the Sustainable Development Goals

We need to rethink neuroscience. And you can help us

3 ways to ensure the internet’s future is creative, collaborative and fair

Parliament endorses landmark EU-Japan free trade agreement

Here are 10 of Nelson Mandela’s most inspirational quotes

Trump to run America to the tune of his business affairs

Mandela, ‘true symbol of human greatness’, celebrated on centenary of his birth

This New York store is selling Christmas presents for refugees

Davos on Climate Change: citizens demanding more actions while CEOs tried to balance profit with sustainability

EU job-search aid worth €9.9m for 1,858 former Air France workers

Air Pollution: Responsibility of Technology and Medicine

International partners pledge $1.2 billion to help cyclone-hit Mozambique recover, ‘build back better’

Lorenzo Natali Media Prize 2019: winners of EU’s development journalism award unveiled

Three ways batteries could power change in the world

Lithuania vs Parliament over 2014 EU budget

This is how much the US-China trade war could cost the world, according to new research

When is Berlin telling the truth about the EU banking union?

Robot inventors are on the rise. But are they welcomed by the patent system?

Are we at the edge of anti-vaccination health crisis?

EU Budget: InvestEU Programme to support jobs, growth and innovation in Europe

3 ways firms can master the digital challenges of the 4IR

Guterres censures terrorist attacks in Nigeria, pledges UN ‘solidarity’

Antitrust: Commission consults stakeholders on guidance for national courts when handling disclosure information

End ‘shame, isolation and segregation’ of fistula sufferers, urges UN reproductive health chief

To flourish in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we need to rethink these 3 things

TTIP update: postponed vote and INTA meeting shuffle cards again

Energy Union: EU’s effort towards a cleaner climate with integrated energy market

The challenges of mental health among the Syrian medical students

Draghi: ECB to flood Eurozone and the world with more zero cost money; risk of drowning in cash

Global health challenges require global medical students

iSting: Change Europe with your Writing

The Commission tells Berlin it is legally obliged to help Eurozone out of stagnation

An open letter to Europe’s leaders

GSMA Announces Speakers for Mobile 360 – Russia & CIS 2018

The way to entrepreneurship in the developing world

Digital development: technology-enabled, but human-centric

UN rights chief ‘appalled’ by US border detention conditions, says holding migrant children may violate international law

Everyone’s ‘buy-in’ needed to restore peace in Kosovo, UN envoy tells Security Council

More Stings?

Trackbacks

  1. […] of the reasons for abandoning Mare Nostrum could be seen as the lack of funds. Triton is cheaper but it may less […]

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s