A summit between nine southern EU countries was held in Malta last week and saw the issue of irregular migration as one of the central points discussed.
In their joint statement following their meeting, the leaders wrote that they “call on the co-legislators to intensify negotiations on the pact on migration and asylum in order to reach an agreement on all files before the end of the current legislature. This agreement must provide the necessary guarantees that the needs of front-line countries will be adequately met.“The new pact is currently under discussion within European institutions, but what the nine countries, collectively known as MED9, have said is that the agreement must provide the necessary guarantees that the needs of frontline states are satisfied, is a call that must be heeded.
Italy, Spain, Greece and Malta are four Member States which have been at the forefront of the problem of irregular migration. The way some of these countries handled the situation has been criticized, with allegations of repression or ignoring of calls for help repeatedly made. Such cases must be investigated. A ship in distress must be rescued. There are no ifs or buts, and international law is very clear on this issue.
But another issue that also needs to be addressed is that other member states need to do much more to help these nations.
The people who make the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean are human beings and not some form of statistic. The Mediterranean must not continue to be a cemetery. J.uan Fernando López Aguilar, S&D MEP and chairman of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, told the Malta Independent in an interview recently that migration is “neither a threat nor a threat”, and he is right. We must always remember that these are people like us, fleeing their homes in search of a better life. Some of those crossing the Mediterranean legally deserve protection, fleeing war, persecution or danger. Others may not be eligible for protection and are considered economic migrants, but that does not mean we should treat them disrespectfully. A returns policy is in place to ensure they are returned safely to their country of origin.
The MED9 also pointed out that work “strengthen the legal and operational aspects of external border surveillance; dismantle smuggling networks; disrupt the supply chain of criminal networks; and preventing the departure of ships that do not meet international safety standards must be intensified while continuing to promote safe, orderly and legal migration..”
Europe is facing a problem of an aging population and therefore another way to solve this problem could be to improve the legal routes to access Europe. This could be part of the solution to reducing the number of migrants who would resort to the perilous sea journey.
The fight against human traffickers must also be improved. So far, it doesn’t seem to have been a big success. Monitoring could help, but more will need to be done. The MED9 countries also talked about working with third countries. “The EU and Member States must work together on the external dimension of migration in order to achieve the objectives set in the Action Plans for the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Western Balkans and to ensure their effective implementation. We therefore emphasize the need for stronger awareness to all our neighbors in the Mediterranean, the African continent and the main countries of origin and transit, as well as the construction of global and strategic partnerships with these third countries, based on mutual trust.“, said MED9. Indeed, Prime Minister Robert Abela, in a press release following the summit, declared: “TThe return rate of rejected asylum seekers must be improved. It is vital that smuggling networks are dismantled. But ultimately, you have to address the source. To achieve this, we emphasize the need to urgently build stronger and more comprehensive partnerships with all our partners in the southern Mediterranean. »
However, there is a problem concerning some third countries which needs to be addressed. Humanitarian groups and human rights organizations have denounced a deal between the EU and Libya to fund the Libyan coast guard so they can increase patrols to bring migrants back to Libya. UN says abuses rife in Libyan migrant detention camps For example. If the EU wants to work more with Libya, it must do more to ensure that the country is a safe place for migrants. The EU must work to ensure that Libya improves conditions for migrants rescued around its shores.