EU back­ing for Mediter­ranean naval mission, mi­grant quo­tas re­jected

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Euro­pean Union for­eign and de­fence min­is­ters agreed on a naval mission on Mon­day to tar­get gangs smug­gling mi­grants from Libya. But parts of a broader plan to deal with the in­flux be­gan to un­ravel in a row over na­tional quo­tas for hous­ing asy­lum seek­ers, the EU news and pol­icy site EurAc­tiv re­ported.

Hun­dreds of deaths at sea, in­clud­ing the drown­ing of up to 900 on a sin­gle ves­sel in the Mediter­ranean last month, have jolted Euro­pean gov­ern­ments into a more ro­bust re­sponse. But be­yond greater fund­ing for res­cue op­er­a­tions, the EU is di­vided on how to act as anti-im­mi­grant par­ties gain sup­port at home.

EU for­eign pol­icy chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini said the naval mission could start next month with de­tails re­main­ing un­clear.

The Euro­pean Union wants to cap­ture smug­glers and de­stroy their boats off the Libyan coast to help it tackle the ris­ing num­ber of mi­grants flee­ing war and poverty in Africa and the Mid­dle East. But it wants U.N. autho­ri­sa­tion to op­er­ate close in­shore to a coun­try that has de­scended into an­ar­chy since West­ern pow­ers backed a 2011 re­volt that ousted Muam­mar Gaddafi.

NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jens Stoltenberg urged Europe to move, say­ing Is­lamic State mil­i­tants might be “also try­ing to hide, to blend in among the mi­grants” in or­der to get to Europe.

Some 51,000 mi­grants have en­tered Europe by cross­ing the Mediter­ranean this year, with 30,500 via Italy. About 1,800 have drowned in the at­tempt, the UN refugee agency said.

At an emer­gency sum­mit in Brussels lead­ers agreed to “iden­tify, cap­ture and be­fore they are used by traf­fick­ers”.

Mogherini flew to New York this month to seek sup­port for a draft res­o­lu­tion by Bri­tain, France, Lithua­nia and Spain un­der Chap­ter 7 of the U.N. Char­ter, which al­lows the use of force to re­store in­ter­na­tional peace and se­cu­rity.

With­out UN autho­ri­sa­tion, the EU’s naval mission, which will be head­quar­tered in Rome, will not have the man­date to in­ter­vene in Libyan ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters to seize ves­sels.

But diplo­mats say the EU can start us­ing ships, drones and he­li­copters in the high seas to gather in­tel­li­gence about last month, EU de­stroy ves­sels peo­ple smug­glers, although the im­pact will be limited.

A 19-page doc­u­ment for Union min­is­ters en­vis­ages four phases, start­ing with de­ploy­ment and as­sess­ment, and cul­mi­nat­ing in a “dis­rup­tional phase”. A U.N. Se­cu­rity Res­o­lu­tion “is not re­quired for the first phase”, the doc­u­ment said.

As part of its mi­grant strat­egy, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion last week un­veiled a plan to take in 20,000 more refugees over the next two years, a re­sponse to an emer­gency that saw over 600,000 peo­ple seek refuge in the EU in 2014.

The EU ex­ec­u­tive also pro­posed a quota sys­tem to spread out among states the bur­den of hous­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple while their claims for asy­lum are pro­cessed. At present, Ger­many and Swe­den, take the ma­jor share.

Bri­tain has re­jected any quota, ex­er­cis­ing an es­tab­lished ex­emp­tion from EU migration poli­cies. The French pre­mier has said he is against quo­tas, be­cause France has al­ready taken in thou­sands of refugees from Syria and Iraq since 2012.

Span­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Jose Manuel Garcia-Mar­gallo said Spain’s chronic un­em­ploy­ment meant it could not help. Slo­vakia and Hun­gary are also against the quota sys­tem.

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