SHARE
COPY LINK
MEDITERRANEAN MIGRANTS CRISIS

IMMIGRATION

France wants UN support to destroy migrant boats

France will go to the UN to try to get backing for the EU to destroy boats used by migrant traffickers in the Mediterranean. Paris also joined Berlin and London in pledging more ships and aircraft after an emergency summit in Brussels.

France wants UN support to destroy migrant boats
Amnesty International activists and migrants protest before a meeting of the European Council on Mediterranean migrants crisis in Brussels, on April 23, 2015. Photo: AFP

French President Francois Hollande said Thursday he will seek a UN resolution authorising the EU to destroy boats used by traffickers to send thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe.

"We will look at all the options for seeking out and destroying these boats… that can only be done under a UN resolution (on which) France will take the initiative with others," Hollande said after an emergency EU summit on the recent upsurge in migrants risking their lives to reach European shores.

European leaders had gathered in Brussels to discuss new strategies in the wake of the latest disaster on Sunday, in which hundreds of migrants drowned when their boat capsized on the way from Libya to Italy.

The high pressure meeting in Brussels came as the EU comes under fire for failing to do enough to protect the migrants, hundreds of whom have died in recent days, as they took the perilous journey to Europe across the Mediterranean.

EU leaders pledgedto triple the funding for the search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

Following the summit Britain, France and Germany said they would offer ships and aircraft for the maritime search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean sea.

The UK will send HMS Bulwark to the area,while Germany offered one frigate and 10 ships.

France is believed to have committed a plane for a fortnight in September and a patrol boat for the month of November.

Much of the political rhetoric in recent days has focused on the people smugglers operating along the North African coastline, described by Italian Prime Minister Mateo Renzi as "the slave traders of the 21st century".

EU leaders have decided to draw up plans to hit the people smuggling networks and destroy the boats they use to get migrants across the sea.

Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign and security policy coordinator, was charged with drawing up a military mission blueprint, but it could take months to finalize. 

But experts see any attempt to tackle the problem militarily as doomed to fail.

"This problem is totally unsolvable with military means," Alain Coldefy, a retired French admiral, told AFP.

"Politicians have on several occasions asked me the question of what could be done to stop this trafficking by force, and the response is simple: nothing," he said.

"Once these boats loaded with migrants have left Libyan waters, we can only apply international rules, which means rescuing people."

Marines are not trained or equipped to launch operations against these kind of boats, Coldefy added. Nor do they have an option of firing on them.

Aid organizations across Europe have heavily criticized the EU in recent weeks of not acting out of fear of the "pull effect" and the worry that thousands more migrants would attempt to get to Europe if the route became safer.

Medecins du Monde has heavily criticized France and other EU countries for having a policy of not improving the welcome and protection offered to asylum seekers out of fear that it will simply encourage more to come.

“This argument is dead now. We can’t accept it anymore," Jean-François Corty told The Local.

“These people will try anything to get to Europe and the government needs to take measures that correspond to this reality and to protect these people,” he added.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

SHOW COMMENTS