On Monday, the European Commission presented a 20-point action plan to deal with the increase in migrant arrivals across the Mediterranean. More than 90,000 migrants have arrived in the European Union this year by crossing the sea from the coasts of North African countries to Italy or Malta, an increase of 50% compared to 2021.
The Brussels plan aims to strengthen cooperation with third countries, including measures to prevent departures from North Africa, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told a press conference.
According to the EU executive, most migrants leave the coasts of Libya and Tunisia, mainly from Egypt, Tunisia, and Bangladesh. The EU plans to spend €580 million between 2021 and 2023 to support North African countries and help boost economic growth and jobs in the region.
Tensions rose a notch at the beginning of the month between France and Italy after Rome refused to welcome the NGO human trafficking ship “Ocean Viking,” which finally docked at the military port of Toulon (Var) with 234 migrants on board.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi called the proposal a “good start”, welcoming the emphasis on increased cooperation with countries of origin and transit and better coordination of rescue activities at sea.
Ylva Johansson said that Brussels must strengthen the coordination of search and rescue activities, particularly between coastal States and flag States – those which have registered the ships – while stressing that assistance to people in distress at sea is a legal obligation.
She also highlighted the European agreement reached last June on a system of voluntary relocation of migrants and the financial contributions of the countries of the bloc which are not on the front line to manage illegal arrivals on EU territory.
In June, as part of a voluntary approach, a dozen European countries (including France and Germany) committed to welcoming 8,000 asylum seekers arriving in Mediterranean countries over one year. Still, only 117 relocations have taken place so far.“ We need to step up the pace,” said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, presenting her plan on Monday.