Recent Media Reports Point To EU Choosing Border Control Over Migrant Rescue - Charity

Recent Media Reports Point to EU Choosing Border Control Over Migrant Rescue - Charity

Recent media reports provide new evidence that the European Union's Mediterranean Sea rescue operation is more focused on protecting borders than saving lives of migrants, Sam Turner, the head of the mission for Libya and Mediterranean search and rescue team of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) charity, told Sputnik

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 05th March, 2019) Recent media reports provide new evidence that the European Union's Mediterranean Sea rescue operation is more focused on protecting borders than saving lives of migrants, Sam Turner, the head of the mission for Libya and Mediterranean search and rescue team of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) charity, told Sputnik.

Last week, an article in the Politico outlet suggested, citing alleged leaked documents, that the EU rescue mission dubbed Operation Sophia did not have enough funding, staff or equipment. EU officials purportedly admitted in internal documentation that some members of the Libyan Coast Guard � funded and trained by the bloc � were working with smugglers. In addition, some of the EU officials asked in a status report in 2017 to be allowed to freeze rescue missions and focus on anti-smuggling. The European Commission declined to comment on the leaked documents.

"The recent Politico article, citing a leaked document in which Operation Sophia officials suggested they be granted permission to suspend rescue operations despite observing an increase in the use of unseaworthy rubber boats, is only one of many examples illustrating that lifesaving operations have not been the EU's top priority. The EU has instead chosen to prioritize border control over saving lives. Despite there being so little dedicated search and rescue capacity in the Central Mediterranean," Turner said.

The article describes the same concerns over the operation's effectiveness that the MSF could see until it had to stop its own rescue operation, in December 2018, Turner said.

At the time, the MSF cited the pressure by EU states and "absurd allegations of criminal activity" that its rescue ship Aquarius was facing.

"The longstanding campaign led by Italy and backed by other EU member states to criminalize and obstruct organizations from carrying out search and rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean must come to an end," Turner said.

A new Italian government that came to power last year has promoted tough line on migration, closing its ports to rescue vessels. Aquarius was barred from Italy's and Malta's ports in June, as it was carrying over 600 rescued migrants.

"The EU must take responsibility for saving lives instead of trying to escape their obligations under international law. By empowering the Libyan Coast Guard, the EU is failing to uphold their obligations to respect the principle of non-refoulement," Turner stressed.

The MSF representative stressed the need for agreements that would determine the disembarkation rules for vessels carrying rescued migrants and the guidance for their relocation afterward.

The European Union has struggled to handle the increased inflow of migrants since 2015. The disembarkation and relocation of migrants within the bloc has caused tensions within the European Union. Italy has stressed that it has been under pressure as many of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea end up on its shores. Meanwhile, Hungary and Poland have objected to the EU initiative to have each country accept a certain number of migrants.

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