Malta to support Italy’s threat to suspend Mare Nostrum operation

Italy wants Frontex to take over the duties of the Mare Nostrum operation

Hundreds of migrants were saved by maltese, Italian and US naval vessels
Hundreds of migrants were saved by maltese, Italian and US naval vessels

The Maltese government will be supporting Italy’s threat to suspend the Mare Nostrum operation if the EU fails to take over the duties of controlling migration flows.

Human Rights Watch said Italy is expected to use this week’s European Union Summit to ask the EU to take charge of its life-saving operation to rescue migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. “Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy will seek agreement in Brussels for the EU border agency Frontex to take over the duties of the Italian Navy’s Mare Nostrum operation,” HRW said in a statement.

Mare Nostrum began in October 2013, in the wake of a boat wreck near the Italian island of Lampedusa that claimed more than 360 lives.

About 40,000 people have been saved as a result of the operation, many of them fleeing conflict and abuse.

Rising numbers of refugees and migrants attempting the perilous crossing via Libya and the financial costs of the operation help explain Italy’s call for Frontex to take charge. The move is supported by the government of Malta, which has also experienced boat migration in recent years.

“Without stronger collective EU action, this summer could become the Mediterranean’s drowning season,” said Benjamin Ward, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.

“EU leaders should give the financial and material backing to continue Italy’s vital efforts to save lives at sea and ensure that those who are rescued land at a safe place and can have any asylum claims fairly heard.”

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has argued in favour of common irregular migration policy. During a meeting of the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee, Muscat said thousands of lives have been saved thanks to Italy’s operation which is supported by the Maltese Armed Forces.

“No one must think that the EU has tackled irregular migration because we had very few arrivals. Malta’s Armed Forces have been heavily involved in rescuing migrants while Italy has been taking them in. It has now become the norm to see between 20 and 30 boats crossing the Mediterranean at any given time,” Muscat said.

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