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Negotiations stall on a systematic mechanism to redistribute migrants rescued from the Mediterranean
Despite the departure of the former Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, and the resumption of discussions between European governments, a systematic and sustainable solution has yet to be found for migrants rescued from the Mediterranean.
The appointment of Matteo Salvini’s replacement, Luciana Lamorgese, in September 2019 raised hopes of a u-turn in the country’s asylum policy, which has been particularly severe since the adoption by Parliament, in early August, of the “Security Decree bis”. This included the power to impose fines on any rescue vessel entering Italian territorial waters without authorisation – from €150,000 to €1 million, seizure of the vessel and the arrest of its captain.
This reshuffle in Italy notably led to the conclusion of a “preliminary-agreement” with the French, Maltese and German Interior Ministers to stop the “case-by-case” negotiations imposed by the Italian and Maltese governments up to that point. Under the terms of this “preliminary agreement”, people must be disembarked at the “easiest [to reach] and safest” place of reception, where they would undergo an initial check of their migratory pathway, in particular with regard to anti-terrorist considerations, before being dispatched within four weeks of their arrival to one of the volunteer countries to have their asylum application examined. This “preliminary” redistribution agreement, which was ultimately never formalised, was only a “first step”, as the Finnish Presidency of the European Union hoped to extend it to a total of 20 countries, before submitting it to all the countries of the European Union for approval at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 7 and 8 October.
In the absence of a clear, transparent and systematic mechanism, several landings were once again the subject of negotiations, led by the European Commission, on the disembarkment and redistribution of people rescued in the Mediterranean. This was the case in several Italian ports on 3 December. Differences appear to be ongoing as to how to respond to the situation in the Mediterranean. On 24 October, with the European Parliament refusing to adopt a resolution calling on EU Member States to intensify their search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean, to open European ports to NGOs and to secure humanitarian corridors.
This text compiles various articles originally published in French in “Veilles Europe” by France Terre d’Asile in recent months: see the editions of 1–15 September, 16–30 September, 1–15 October and 16–30 October.