The Mare Nostrum operation is scheduled to end on 1 November 2014. After the commemoration of the 3 October 2013 shipwreck, the question must be asked as to what will replace this mechanism that was deployed by Italy in the context of conflicts taking place at the gates of Europe, pushing tens of thousands of people to leave as they seek protection.
The European Commission and the EU Member States have not proposed any solution that may take over from Mare Nostrum and put an end to the death of masses of people in the Mediterranean. The strengthening of border controls by Frontex through operation « Triton » - which is also known as « Frontex Plus » - will not become a sea rescue operation, as Frontex itself has stated. Fighting smugglers and providing funding for the « dialogue » with third countries will not have any positive effect on the current situation : the routes that migrants take will only become more dangerous.
With Mare Nostrum, Italy half-opened a door, that of the rescue of migrants at sea. It has not been exempt from criticism – for its military nature, the lack of transparency about the fate of the people saved from drowning, and … for its failures, in view of the fact that according to UNHCR 3,000 people may have drowned since the start of the year -, yet this operation has at least started using a different perspective. In October 2013, by acting to rescue migrants even within Libyan waters, Italy has taken on a responsibility which the EU has never accepted, contenting itself with hypocritically deploring the « tragedies of immigration » every time that a shipwreck is announced while strengthening controls.
Italy has completed this initiative which shows a healthy disobedience to some absurd European rules : taking the fingerprints of people who are deemed « irregular » when they arrive in European territory, which stems from the Eurodac and Dublin regulations. By allowing the return of asylum seekers who are tracked in this way towards the countries through which they entered Europe, these rules weigh down the countries where they first arrive (like Greece or Italy) with a burden that the northern European countries are unwilling to share.
By establishing Mare Nostrum, while refusing the unfair mechanism of the Dublin regulation, Italy has set up, in effect, a form of natural movement to penetrate the European space and to move within it. This attempt to enact a mere « humanitarian corridor » adapted to the Euro-Mediterranean context is a first step. It is insufficient. If it really wants to put an end to « irregular » immigration, the EU needs to make it « regular » by allowing entry into the European territory to those who choose it or are forced into exile.
October 8 2014
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